- If a sufficient number of partners withdraw from the firm so that it is impractical for the remaining partners to continue to operate the firm, dissolution may be necessary. The following suggestions apply to both friendly and unfriendly law firm dissolutions. Some matters will not apply if there is a surviving firm.
- Appoint an inventory attorney or qualified custodian(s) to oversee the dissolution and serve as liaison with the accountant, collect receivables, etc.
- Conclude Active Cases - Conclude as many active files as possible prior to closing office.
- Determine where files will be stored and in what medium.
- Determine who will pay for the storage and retrieval.
- Determine how long the files will be kept. (See Ethics Advisory Committee's FAQ's. See also a list of Inactive Files to Keep.
- Provide written notice to clients with active files, letting them know departing lawyer will no longer be a member of the firm and that the clients have the option of retaining the departing lawyer or the law firm or another lawyer of the client's choice.
- Inform clients of time limitations and time frames.
- Inform clients where they can pick up files. See Rule 1.4, SCRPC, Communication.
- Phone calls and inquiries. Ensure that the receptionist and other support staff know how to field phone calls after the announcement.
- Discuss with clients how to proceed where cases have pending court dates, depositions, or hearings. Request extensions, continuances, and resetting of hearing dates if appropriate and notice all parties involved.
- Obtain clients' permission to submit motions and orders to withdraw as attorney of record for cases before administrative bodies and courts.
- For clients obtaining new lawyers, be certain that Notices Substituting Counsel are filed.
- At the appropriate time, check all files to make sure that either an Order allowing departing lawyer to withdraw as counsel or an Order Substituting Counsel has been filed.
- Retain the original files and make copies for the clients. If there are original documents in the files which should be returned to the clients, make copies for the retained files and give the originals to the clients.
- Inform clients as to where their closed files will be stored and whom they should contact in order to retrieve them. Obtain permission to destroy the files after 10 years. If another lawyer is storing the files, get the clientsâ€™ permission to allow the lawyer to store the files. Provide the clients with the lawyer's name, address, and telephone number.
- If the law firms from which the partners are withdrawing do not survive, consider maintaining email address and telephone number on voice mail for several months to one year to ease transition.
- Reconcile trust account and return any property to clients. If funds are transferred to another lawyer chosen by the client, the check should be made payable jointly to the client and to the new lawyer when disbursed from the trust account.