3.14 [ABROGATED] Sale or Cessation of Law Practice
Text of Rule effective until August 1, 2009.
A lawyer or law firm may sell or purchase a law practice, including goodwill, if the selling attorney or each attorney in the selling firm has retired, become disabled or has died; or the selling attorney or each attorney in the selling firm has ceased to engage in the private practice of law in the State of Maine. The purchaser, who must be registered with the Board as an active member of the Bar of the State of Maine, assumes the obligations of an attorney to the client or clients whose files are transferred. The parties to the sale and purchase must comply with the other applicable provisions of these rules, and must satisfy the conditions of this rule. The estate of a deceased lawyer may be a seller.
(a) If the seller is or was a solo practitioner, then the entire law practice must be sold as a single unit. If the seller is or was a law firm, then the entire practice of the firm must be sold as a single unit. The entire law practice, for purposes of this rule, shall mean all client files, for open and closed engagements, excepting only those cases in which a conflict of interest is present or may arise.
(b) Written notice shall be given the Board of Overseers of the Bar and to each of the seller's clients (meaning those with whom the attorney then has open engagements) regarding:
(1) The proposed sale, including the name of the purchasing attorney or the names of the attorneys who practice within the purchasing firm;
(2) The terms of any proposed change in the fee arrangement authorized by paragraph (d);
(3) The client's right to retain other counsel or to take possession of the client's file; and
(4) That the client's consent to the transfer of the client's file to and representation by the purchaser will be presumed if the client does not take any action or does not otherwise object within ninety days of receipt of the notice.
If a client cannot be given notice, the transfer of the client's file and assumption of representation of that client may occur only after entry of an order by a single justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court which shall not issue without the Board of Overseers of the Bar having been given notice and an opportunity to be heard. The seller may disclose to the Board and the court, in camera, information relating to the representation only to the extent necessary to obtain an order authorizing the transfer of the client's file and of representation of the client.
(c) Further notice shall be given by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in each county in which seller has engaged in the practice of law, at least thirty days before the anticipated transfer of files. Such notice shall include the anticipated date of sale and identification of the purchasing lawyer or firm.
(d) The fees charged clients shall not be increased by the purchasing lawyer or firm by reason of the sale. The purchaser may, however, refuse to undertake the representation unless the client consents to pay the purchaser fees at a rate not exceeding the fees charged by the purchaser for rendering substantially similar services prior to the initiation of the purchase negotiations.
(e) Admission to or withdrawal from a partnership or professional corporation, retirement plans, and similar arrangements for a sale limited to the tangible assets of a law practice is not sale or purchase for the purposes of this Rule 3.14.