Closing your law practice can come as a result of many factors: retirement, merging firms, disability, or an appointment to the bench. All of these different scenarios involve different parameters, but some basic similar premises are involved. A checklist follows that provides some guidance and direction as to the main issues that need to be addressed.


1. Finalize as many files as possible.


2. Write to clients with active files, advising them that you are unable to continue representing them and that they need to retain new counsel. Your letter should inform them about time limitations and time frames important to their cases. The letter should explain how and where they can pick up copies of their files and should give a time deadline for doing this. (See sample Letter Advising that Lawyer is Closing His/Her Office provided on VSB Web site).


3. For cases that have pending court dates, depositions, or hearings, discuss with the clients how to proceed. Where appropriate, request extensions, continuances, and resetting of hearing dates. Send written confirmations of these extensions, continuances, and resets to opposing counsel and to your client.


4. For cases before administrative bodies and courts, obtain the client's permission to submit a motion an order to withdraw as attorney of record.


5. In cases where the client has chosen a new attorney, be certain that a Substitution of Counsel is filed.


6. Pick an appropriate date and check to see if all cases either have a Motion and Order allowing your withdrawal as counsel or a Subsititution of Counsel filed with the court.


7. Makes copies of files for clients. Retain your original files. All clients should either pick up their files (and sign a receipt acknowledging that they received them) or sign an authorization for you to release the files to their new attorneys. If a client is picking up a file, original documents should be returned to the client and copies should be kept in your file.


8. All clients should be told where their closed files will be stored and whom they should contact in order to retrieve them. Obtain all clients' permission to destroy the files after approximately 5 years or acceptable guidelines as set out in LEO 1305. If a closed file is to be stored by another attorney, get the client's permission to allow the attorney to store the file for you and provide the client with the attorney's name, address and phone number.


9.  If you are a sole practitioner, ask the telephone company for a new phone number to be given out when your old number is called.  This eliminates the problem created when clients call your phone number, get a recording stating that the number is disconnected, and do not know where else to turn for information.


10. Call the membership department at the Virginia State Bar and update all membership records as to status and contact information.


back to Legal Ethics page


back to Professional Guidelines page