Legal Ethics in the Era of Law Firm Mergers and Vereins: Navigating Fee-Splitting, Referral, Conflicts and Other Ethical Issues

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A


Conducted on Thursday, December 3, 2015

Recorded event now available

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Program Materials

This CLE webinar will examine the legal ethics issues attorneys and law firms face in an era of increasing firm mergers and growth. The panel will explore vereins and other alternative firm structures, outline the legal ethics challenges these mega firms present—including referral, fee-splitting and cost-sharing issues—and offer best practices for complying with ethical rules as law firms continue to merge, grow and globalize.

Description

The legal industry has seen a record-breaking flurry of merger and consolidation activity in 2015. More law firms of all sizes are pursuing mergers or acquisitions, a trend that is expected to continue as law firms continue to grow in size and scope. In January, Dentons announced it’s merger with a Chinese firm, creating the world’s largest law firm, one with 7,000 attorneys worldwide.

Some of the largest firms have chosen to assume the structure of a “verein,” a Swiss style partnership in which firms combine some functions—such as marketing and brand management—while maintaining independent financial and legal entities. Vereins have been criticized as shortcuts to mergers that create incentives to put a firm’s interests before a client’s because they rely too heavily on referrals from the affiliated partner firms.

The growth of law firms and the creation of “mega firms” with non-traditional business structures raises potential legal ethics challenges, particularly regarding referrals, fee-splitting, cost-sharing and conflicts of interest. Balancing a desire to integrate partner firms’ marketing and brand identity while segregating finances and limiting liability and conflicts can lead to ethical missteps.

Listen as our authoritative panel discusses the potentially thorny ethical issues law firms and attorneys face in an era of increasing firm mergers and growth. The panel will explore vereins and other alternative firm structures, outline the legal ethics challenges these mega firms present—including referral, fee-splitting and cost-sharing issues—and offer best practices for complying with ethical rules as law firms continue to merge, grow and globalize.

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Outline

  1. Overview of recent merger activity
  2. Verein association structure
  3. ABA Model Rules and alternative firm structures
    1. Rule 1.5(e): Fees
    2. Rule 5.4: Professional Independent of a Lawyer
  4. Best practices for avoiding legal ethics missteps

Benefits

The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What legal ethics issues arise when law firms adopt verein structures?
  • What guidance does ABA Formal Opinion 464 offer for lawyers in firms with global locations?
  • What client disclosures can help attorneys avoid violating Rule 1.5(e)?

Faculty

Peter R. Jarvis
Peter R. Jarvis

Partner
Holland & Knight

Mr. Jarvis practices primarily in the area of attorney professional responsibility and risk management. He advises...  |  Read More

Janis M. Meyer
Janis M. Meyer

Partner
Hinshaw & Culbertson

Ms. Meyer focuses her practice on professional responsibility, risk management and professional liability law, with...  |  Read More

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