Model Policy Regarding Attorney Terminations
1. The attorney should be given notice and a reasonable period of time to find new employment. The length of time will vary from attorney to attorney, depending upon a number of factors, including, inter alia, the circumstances giving rise to the decision to terminate the attorney's services, the length of the attorney's employment, the size of the law firm and the financial condition of the firm. Except in cases of willful misconduct, law firms should give an attorney no fewer than three months to find new employment. During this time period, law firms should provide full compensation and benefits to the attorney, and should maintain health insurance benefits for displaced attorneys for up to six months until the attorney has found new employment, to ease the burden on attorneys who are trying to find new employment.
2. Law firms should not state or suggest that economically driven terminations are based on an attorney's performance. The recent economic decline has caused many law firms to re-evaluate the performance of their attorneys and to implement stricter performance standards. It is patently unfair to imply that an attorney has been displaced for performance reasons, when the law firm's stricter performance standards are directly related to the economic decline. To represent that the decision has been based on the attorney's professional performance may unduly harm the attorney's prospects for finding new employment.
3. Many attorney layoffs have been caused by a downturn in a particular area of practice. Where this occurs, law firms should consider offering the attorneys they intend to lay off continued employment in another department within the law firm, retraining the attorneys to meet the needs of an economically more prosperous area of practice.
4. Where a layoff occurs for reasons other than for cause, law firms should consider offering the attorney an opportunity to work for organizations such as the City Law Department or Community Legal Services (CLS), while the attorney is still employed by the law firm. This will allow attorneys the opportunity to remain employed while seeking new employment.
5. Finally, law firms should provide support services at no charge to the attorney, such as professional legal out-placement, counseling, letters of recommendation and introduction, and the use of the law firm's office facilities to help in the search for a new position.