Lateral movement of law firm partners seems to be inevitable nowadays. But lawsuits by former law firms are not.
A case filed this month in California is a recent example of law firm partnerships gone bad.
According to this article, a law firm terminated four partners and escorted them off the premises. One month later the firm sued them for misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty, unfair competition, intentional interference, and breach of contract. The former firm is seeking over $2 million in damages.
In most jurisdictions, it is not per se improper to make plans to compete, as long as you don’t actually compete before leaving your firm. And clients generally have an absolute right to decide who represents them.
We may never know what really happened, but the former law firm obviously felt a lawsuit was worth it.
If you’re planning to leave your law firm, be sure you are not breaching your fiduciary or ethical duties. Even if you’ve complied with the law, you may not be able to avoid a lawsuit, but you should be able to win it.