Lawyers should review ABA Rule 1.17 before buying or selling a legal practice. Some states have enacted versions of ABA Rule 1.17. Lawyers are urged to consult with ethics counsel to review the version of ABA Rule 1.17 that was adopted in the applicable jurisdiction.
The sale of law practices has not always been allowed. Historically, sole practitioners were out of luck when they retired. Law practice sales were prohibited. Sole practitioners' counter-parts in small and not-so-small firms had an advantage by selling to associates or other partners who would continue the practice. That unfair advantage was neutralized with the adoption of ABA Rule 1.17.
ABA Rule 1.17: Client-Lawyer Relationship,
A lawyer or a law firm may sell or purchase a law practice, or an area of law practice, including good will, if the following conditions are satisfied:
(a) The seller ceases to engage in the private practice of law, or in the area of prac…