Rule 1.17 and the Sole/Small


I am proud to say that I was the catalyst for the ABA Commission on Ethics decision, affirmed by the House of Delegates, to modify Rule 1.17 to allow lawyers to sell a practice area and still remain in practice, although not in the area sold. The practical focus of Rule 1.17 is the sole and small firm practitioner. Large firms don't sell their practice. They can break up, merge, combine, or move entire practice groups from one firm to another. But they don't "sell" their practice, or at least they don't call it that and thus they sidestep Rule 1.17.

Partial practice sale has been adopted by the states that follow the ABA Model rules and is slowly being adopted by others as well. But, the change has not yet been adopted universally. This year the State Bar of California proposed four pages of changes to its rules on buying and selling a practice that, among other things, would require the selling lawyer to divest all of a practice or field of practice, and to cease engaging in the private practice of law once the sale is complete.

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