{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "Currently at a small firm and will most likely be leaving to start my own practice soon. Any advice or tips regarding how to transfer my clients - and their files - with me? I have a good relationship with my current firm but, still, I expect them to want to hang on to as much as they can.", "post_id": "5f1b195c640cdd00208615a2", "reply_count": 3, "vote_count": 1, "bowl_id": "5de71b89e674d9001a783fb1", "bowl_name": "Small Law / Solos", "feed_type": "bowl" }

Currently at a small firm and will most likely be leaving to start my own practice soon. Any advice or tips regarding how to transfer my clients - and their files - with me? I have a good relationship with my current firm but, still, I expect them to want to hang on to as much as they can.

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Generally and ethically speaking, it rests on the client’s interests, so it’ll be up to the client if they stay with the firm or follow you.

The most you and the firm can do is let each of your clients know you’re departing the firm and that they have the option to work with a new attorney at the firm, or stay your client at your practice.

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Also, check with your state bar. Many of them have approved communication to clients in this situation.

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Having recently done this myself... Back up your client files before you give notice, and then when clients say they are going with you, ask their permission to have the file released directly to you. If they don't go with you, I had to destroy those back up files (as part of my employment contract), but if they do, then you have the electronic file until you get the physical file. It took nearly a month to get physical files from my prior firm, which with active cases can cause quite a few issues. With clients that came later than my first wave, I'm still waiting on files. Which puts me at a disadvantage, because I don't have their electronic files.
In CA, where I practice, you can solicit your own clients (clients you have retained) to go with you, but not other attorney's clients - even if you've been the primary on their case. So for my clients, I gave notice I was leaving (after telling managing attorney of course) and included a phrase along the line of, "you have a choice in who represents you, if you choose to go with me, here's the retainer I would require. If you choose to stay, attorney x will be taking over your case. Regardless of your choice we'll make the transition as easy as possible." For those who had a balance that would be due back to them from the firm, I let them know that they could wait to pay me a retainer until they got their refund, as long as nothing crazy was going on. I also made sure their billing was in and a final bill would be done before I left, so it wouldn't hold up their refund.
For those cases that weren't mine, but that I had been primary, I just gave them notice that I was leaving, that attorney x would be taking back over their case, with my new signature line at the bottom. A few of them went with me as well.
I also download the office contact list for future conflict checks (that's essentially how it was maintained at our office). I also started backing up any emails that I thought I might need. For a few big clients I did a complete back up of my emails with them by downloading them in gmail (there's a way you can do this mass style). I did all of this before notice, because at least where I was at, the managing attorney was known to make things as difficult as possible once you gave notice. Which rang true.

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