sale of law practice

Rule 1.17 Sale of Law Practice

Rule 1.17 Sale of Law Practice

ABA Rule 1.17 sale of law practice – governs the sale of law practices and provides guidelines and procedures to facilitate this process. The sale of a law practice is a significant decision for any attorney, especially those approaching retirement. Let’s explore the key aspects of ethical Rule 1.17, its benefits for retiring attorneys, the advantages of using an online marketplace like for selling a practice, and the essential requirement of notifying clients during the transition.

Sale of Practice Using an Online Marketplace

Utilizing an online marketplace to advertise the sale of a law practice offers several benefits, including significant cost savings and convenience.

  • Cost-Effectiveness: Online marketplaces typically charge a fraction of the cost when compared to traditional business brokers. While the cost of selling a practice through an online marketplace can be as low as $49 per month, business brokers may charge a commission of 10% of the practice’s value.
  • Speed and Flexibility: Selling a practice through an online marketplace is quick and flexible. Listings can be created in less than an hour, and they can be canceled at any time without incurring substantial fees. In contrast, business brokers may charge a 5% cancellation fee.
  • Wider Reach: Online marketplaces have a broader reach, making it easier to connect with potential buyers, including younger attorneys looking to establish themselves or law firms seeking to expand their client base.

Maximizing Retirement Benefits for Retiring Attorneys

Retiring attorneys can reap numerous benefits from the sale of their law practice. These advantages extend beyond financial gains and encompass various aspects of their professional and personal lives.

  • Financial Gain: The most apparent benefit is the money generated from the sale. This can significantly bolster the attorney’s retirement nest egg, providing a more comfortable financial future.
  • Profitability: Selling a law practice can be highly profitable, often fetching a price based on the value of the practice’s clients, cases, and reputation.
  • Deferred Income: Retiring attorneys can continue to receive income from the practice they built through future client revenues, even after they have ceased working.
  • Retirement Nest Egg: The sale of a law practice can serve as a substantial part of the attorney’s retirement savings, offering financial security during their retirement years.
  • Client Transition: Retiring attorneys can ensure that their clients are well taken care of by facilitating a smooth transition to a new attorney. This ethical responsibility helps maintain client trust and goodwill.
  • Malpractice Advoidance: Retiring attorneys can reduce and possibly eliminate malpractice exposure by ensuring clients are smoothly transitioned to another attorney.

ABA Rule 1.17 – Sale of Law Practice

ABA Rule 1.17 is a pivotal regulation that allows attorneys to sell their law practices under certain conditions. The rule is designed to ensure a seamless transition of the practice to a new attorney or firm while safeguarding the interests of clients. A synopsis of the rule includes:

  • Entire Practice: The rule allows the sale of an entire law practice, or a portion thereof, to another attorney or law firm.
  • Client Consent: Clients’ consent is not required for the sale, but clients must be informed of the sale and given the option to choose new representation.
  • Lawyer Practice Post-Sale: The selling attorney must cease to engage in the area of practice that has been sold, although they are free to engage in a different practice area or in a different geographic area without limitation.

ABA Rule 1.17 serves as a framework that balances the interests of retiring attorneys, transitioning clients, and the legal profession as a whole.

Cease Engagement in the Sold Practice Area

One of the essential conditions of ABA Rule 1.17 is that the selling attorney must cease to engage in the area of practice that has been sold. However, the rule provides flexibility in terms of exploring other practice areas and geographic locations. This aspect of the rule encourages retiring attorneys to explore new opportunities and areas of interest post-retirement.

The key points to note include:

  • Practice in Different Area or Region: The selling attorney is free to embark on new ventures in different practice areas or geographic regions without any limitation.
  • Stop Practicing in Local Practice Area: The selling attorney is required to stop practicing in the area of law that has been sold to ensure a clean break.
  • Client Assurance: This restriction provides assurance to clients that the new attorney will handle their cases without any conflicts of interest.

Client Notification Upon Sale of Law Practice

Client notification is a crucial element in the sale of a law practice as it maintains transparency and ensures the ethical handling of clients during the transition.

  • Client Consent: While client consent is not required for the sale of a law practice, clients must be informed of the sale and given the option to choose new representation.
  • Smooth Transition: Informing clients in a timely and transparent manner allows for a smooth transition of their cases and legal matters to the new attorney or law firm.
  • Ethical Responsibility: Retiring attorneys have an ethical responsibility to ensure that their clients are well taken care of and have the freedom to make informed decisions regarding their legal representation.


ABA Rule 1.17 governs the sale of law practice, offering retiring attorneys an array of benefits, including financial gains, profitability, deferred income, and the opportunity to help clients transition seamlessly to new representation. Utilizing an online marketplace for selling a practice enhances cost-efficiency, speed, and flexibility. While the rule mandates the selling attorney to cease engagement in the sold practice area, it also grants them the freedom to explore new practice areas or geographic regions. Effective client notification is a pivotal aspect of the sale, ensuring ethical and transparent transitions. In embracing ABA Rule 1.17, retiring attorneys can maximize their retirement benefits while upholding the highest standards of legal ethics.