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How to Handle an Outside Counsel's Law Firm Merger or Transition

By George Khoury, Esq. on August 24, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When you choose an outside counsel, you do it after vetting the firm, and the attorneys that will be in charge of your matter. But when that firm decides to merge with another firm, or your specifically chosen outside counsel decides to move to a new firm, or hang their own shingle, what's an in-house attorney to do?

While it might be natural to panic and preemptively clear your calendar when you find out that your outside counsel is switching firms or their firm is merging with another practice, it should not require you to go into crisis, or damage control, mode. You don't need to frantically restart the search for new outside counsel ... yet. Remain calm, gather as much information as possible about what's going on, and plan accordingly.

Avoiding the Chaos of a Merger

The first thing you should plan out after getting the details on what's actually happening is who will be your primary points of contact during the transition or merger period. Employees don't just stop working while mergers and large transitions are happening. Usually nothing will change at first, but if there is a going to be a big shift in staffing and departments, it's possible that your work might get reassigned, and potentially rather abruptly. It's also possible that the associates that you have grown to like might be getting fired, promoted, or otherwise will be taken off your matter.

The only way to avoid these issues is by finding out how your business will be specifically impacted. Once you know, you can start making demands. But be mindful, unless you know that you're among the firm's largest clients, during a transition period, your demands can go unanswered, so be wary of making ultimatums you're not prepared to keep.

Who, or What, Do You Love?

If you have a conflict (whether personal or of interest) with the incoming law firm, then it may be an easy decision to sever ties and find a new outside counsel. However, barring any conflicts, if the partner or attorney responsible for your matter is moving to a new firm, or starting their own practice, you may have a difficult decision to make.

If you hired the firm for that attorney specifically, it might be a no-brainer decision, but if you hired the firm and got assigned to the attorney, this raises a different dilemma. You may want to consider staying with the firm, or the attorney, or maybe even spreading your business between both.

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