In Georgia, a lawyer or law firm may sell a law practice if certain requirements are met.
First, the law practice must be sold as a whole to another lawyer or law firm. Rule 1.17 recognizes that the purchaser may not ultimately represent all of the clients due to individual client choice or a conflict of interest. Thus, the requirement that all of the private practice be sold together is satisfied if the seller in good faith makes the entire practice available for sale to a single purchaser.
Second, prior to the sale, actual written notice must be given to each of the seller’s clients regarding:
- the proposed sale;
- the terms of any proposed change in the authorized fee arrangement;
- the client’s right to retain other counsel or to take possession of the file; and
- that the client’s consent to the sale will be presumed if, within 90 days of notice, the client does not take any action or does not otherwise object to the sale.
If client cannot be notified, a court must order the transfer representation of that client to the purchaser.
Lastly, the fees charged to clients cannot be increased due to the sale. That said, the purchaser may refuse to undertake the representation unless the client consents to pay the higher fees the purchaser usually charges. But the higher fees must not exceed the fees charged by the purchaser for substantially similar services rendered prior to the initiation of the purchase negotiations.