Strategic Retirement: The “Sale of Law Practice” in Compliance with ABA Rule 1.17

Sale of Law Practice – Rule 1.17

For many lawyers, strategic retirement represents the next chapter in their lives and the sale of a law practice funds the happy retirement. However, retiring from a legal career often involves intricate planning and a careful consideration of the legacy left behind. The “Sale of Law Practice” is a well-regarded exit strategy, especially when done in accordance with the American Bar Association (ABA) Rule 1.17. This approach ensures a smooth transition for both the retiring lawyer and their clients while upholding ethical standards.

Sale of Law Practice Benefits

  1. Financial Security: One of the most significant advantages of selling a law practice is the financial benefit. Established practices with a loyal client base can command substantial value, providing financial security for retirement.
  2. Client Continuity: The sale of a law practice facilitates a seamless transition of clients to a new attorney, ensuring that their legal needs are met without disruption. This maintains client trust and the reputation of your firm.
  3. Ethical Compliance: Adhering to ABA Rule 1.17 ensures that the sale of your practice is carried out ethically, prioritizing the interests of your clients and maintaining the high ethical standards of the legal profession.

Ethical Considerations Under ABA Rule 1.17

Selling a law practice is accompanied by complex ethical considerations, particularly concerning the protection of client interests. The ABA Rule 1.17 mandates the requirement of informed written consent from clients, guaranteeing that clients are fully aware of and agree to the transition. This process ensures that clients maintain control over their legal representation, and their confidentiality is preserved.

Another crucial ethical consideration is the competency of the buying lawyer. The purchasing attorney must be licensed in the same jurisdiction and take over responsibility for the seller’s entire practice or practice area. This ensures that clients continue to receive competent legal representation.

Practical Steps for a Smooth Transition

  1. Valuation: Begin by determining the value of your law practice. This involves assessing client files, revenue, and other assets. Consulting with professionals who specialize in valuing law practices can be immensely helpful.
  2. Finding a Buyer: Identifying a suitable buyer is crucial. This can be a colleague within your firm, a trusted attorney from another firm, or a younger associate looking to take over.
  3. Client Notification: Early notification to clients about the impending sale is vital. Seek their written consent, ensuring that they are comfortable with the transition.
  4. Documentation: Create a detailed agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of the sale, including provisions for client records, transfer of cases, and any non-compete clauses.


The “Sale of Law Practice” is a strategic and ethical exit strategy for retiring lawyers. It provides financial security, ensures client continuity, and maintains the ethical standards of the legal profession. Thorough planning, transparent communication, and adherence to ABA Rule 1.17 enable retiring attorneys to navigate this transition successfully, preserving their legacy while safeguarding clients’ interests. In the legal world, even retirement can be a well-executed act. Don’t forget to read Rule 1.17. Read more information about ethical Rule 1.17 and the sale of law practice using an online marketplace.

October 15, 2023 9:09 pm

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