Today I am presenting on the subject of buying or selling a law firm in Pennsylvania. My powerpoint slides are available here.
Ask for Ethics Assistance
Buying or selling a firm in any state is a complicated endeavor. I highly recommend, if you plan on selling your firm or are looking to purchase one that you check in with the Ethics Committee in your state. In Pennsylvania you can check with the Pennsylvania Bar Association Ethics Hotline at (800) 932-0311, ext. 2214.
The model rule is ABA 1.17. The Pennsylvania rule is somewhat less permissive than the model rule.
A Great Way to Get Started
A young lawyer looking to get started in her own firm might find that purchasing a firm, with the mentoring of the seller, is an excellent way to begin her practice.
Conflict in the PA Rule with Rule 1.6
One issue with the Pennsylvania rule specifically, is that comment 4 in the rule requires informed consent on the part of the client prior to release of any client specific information. However, rule 1.6(c)(6) allows for release of information as long as it is necessary to assist with the sale.
A recent PBA Ethics Committee Opinion (2010-100) finds that 1.6(c)(6) is in control and that appropriate information may be shared. In every case all other ethical rules apply, so the attorney receiving the information is under every privacy obligation she would have been for any potential client.