Model Policy — Regarding Attorney Terminations Report by the Philadelphia Bar Association1

Over the past two years, there have been numerous reports of attorney terminations in Philadelphia law firms. Although individual law firms have given different reasons for the termination of employment of their attorneys, it is common knowledge that many attorneys have been laid off for economic reasons. The potentially adverse impact caused by these layoffs prompted the Philadelphia Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division Executive Committee (YLS) to adopt a resolution appointing a subcommittee to investigate attorney layoffs in Philadelphia law firms. In the Spring of 1991, Beryl Dean, the Bar Association's Placement Service Director, investigated the extent and ramifications of attorney terminations. On June 10, 1991, the YLS held a panel discussion which highlighted the need to determine and implement alternatives to attorney layoffs. Our investigations have confirmed that many of these layoffs can be attributed to an overall economic decline that has resulted in a reduction of legal services at law firms, that these terminations may have a serious adverse impact upon the careers of the attorneys involved and also threaten the development of quality attorneys in the Philadelphia area and the public image of our profession.

The purpose of these statements, and the guidelines contained herein, is not to cast aspersions on the firms who have "laid-off" attorneys. Rather, we recognize that the decision to terminate an attorney is a difficult one to make. Nevertheless, we believe it is possible to minimize the number of terminations through the use of alternatives such as continued employment at reduced compensation, retraining or reassigning attorneys to other more lucrative practice areas, and part time employment. The Philadelphia Bar Association encourages its members to give active consideration to such alternatives.

While the foregoing, if implemented by Philadelphia law firms, may reduce the actual number of terminations, we encourage Philadelphia law firms to establish procedures to be followed when it becomes necessary to terminate the services of an attorney. The Philadelphia Bar Association strongly urges Philadelphia law firms to adopt written termination policies which include, to the extent possible, the attached Model Policy. It is our belief that the legal profession is far better served by treating fellow lawyers as professionals, viewed and treated with the same respect and encouragement which they received when initially hired and who, in more prosperous times, might return to the law firm.

Beyond the procedures noted above and in the attached Model Policy, law firms should consider taking additional steps to assist departing attorneys in their search for new employment and to lessen the impact of the terminations. The Philadelphia Bar Association cannot require law firms to adopt termination policies following the attached model policy. We can only suggest that law firms do so to assist the careers of displaced attorneys, to enhance the development of quality lawyers, and to positively promote our profession's image.


Note
The Association of the Bar of New York City has issued a Statement of Guidelines Regarding Terminations of Attorneys at Law Firms (Statement) . Some of the ideas expressed herein are similar to those set forth in the Statement.