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The dispute over the Unfinished Business Doctrine continues to play out in US Courts

The Unfinished Business Doctrine interprets state law, including the Uniform Partnership Act and requires that, upon dissolution of a law firm, future profits on its pending cases belong to the firm, or its creditors, and not to the lawyer who handles the case through conclusion.  See e.g. Horner v. Bagnell, 324 Conn. 695 (2017).  The issue came up again with the recent dissolution of Howrey LLP, a 700+ lawyer firm, with offices in United States, Europe and Asia.  In February, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals certified the question to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.  Diamond v. Hogan Lovells US LLP, et als. (9th Cir. February 27, 2018).  Most recently, the ABA weighed into the case with an Amicus Brief filed in the DC Circuit, arguing that when applied to hourly rate work, the Unfinished Business Doctrine unfairly restricts a client’s right to counsel of their own choosing and violates restrictions on fee splitting.  See Brief for American Bar Association as Amicus Curiae in support of LLPs filed in Diamond v. Benson Kasowitz, et als., July 12, 2018.  Courts upholding the Doctrine note that law firms can avoid the problem by addressing the issue in their partnership agreements.  Horner, supra.
 

Horner v. Bagnell, 324 Conn. 695 (2017)  https://www.jud.ct.gov/external/supapp/Cases/AROCR/CR324/324CR43.pdf

Diamond v. Hogan Lovells US LLP, et als. (9th Cir. February 27, 2018)  http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2018/02/27/15-16326.pdf

Diamond v. Benson Kasowitz, et als., July 12, 2018  https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/abanews/diamond_v_kasowitz_amicus.pdf

 

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