Breakups – Lawyers and Law Firms
Geri is a lawyer’s lawyer. As the author of the leading manual relating to partner transitions, Partner Departures and Lateral Moves, A Legal and Ethical Guide, Geri is regularly called upon to assist both lawyers and law firms with the complex legal and ethical issues that arise when lawyers leave or are asked to leave their firms. These issues she both counsels on and litigates span the gamut from how to manage departures so as not to breach the often conflicting fiduciary duties owed to both partners and clients to the rights and obligations of the departing partner under the firm’s partnership agreement. Where partners may be asked to leave firms, she negotiates the terms of the exit packages to best address her client’s interests.
Geri is also very experienced in handling law firm dissolutions, both in and out of court. These highly charged situations raise issues unique to the legal profession that require both knowledge of the applicable law and ethics, the statutes and remedies that apply dependent upon the nature of the firm’s organization (partnership, LLP, LLC or PC), and whether the optimum result can be achieved through negotiation, litigation or some other dispute resolution method.
Geri also represents lawyers faced with ethical dilemmas, such as conflicts, disqualifications, bar requirements and sanctions, both in and out of court. She is experienced
in handling investigations, hearings and appellate review of attorney misconduct pursuant to the Code of Professional Responsibility, the Judiciary Law, the New York Rules of Court, and relevant legal and statutory provisions. She has also been involved in litigating the rules applicable to lawyers, such as the constitutionality of bar admission requirements.
Law firms also turn to Geri when they find themselves as defendants in litigations, from contract issues to malpractice, employment discrimination, and malicious prosecution.
Representative Reported Cases
The vast majority of the cases Geri has handled in this area are confidential. However, the following were litigated publicly:
- Sybil Shainwald v. Benedict P. Morelli & Associates, P.C. Hotly contested dispute between lawyer and law firm that spawned proceedings in mediation, arbitration and both state and federal courts. After a nine-day hearing in 2006, obtained, an arbitration award in favor of lawyer (i) finding that law firm had breached the parties’ contract by wrongfully terminating the lawyer and awarded her substantial fees in settled cases, an accounting, an audit by an outside auditor at the law firm’s expense and all of the costs of the arbitration, and (ii) rejecting all of the law firm’s claims. Award was confirmed by The New York State Supreme Court (Index No. 604172/2004) and Appellate Division (49 A.D.3d 476 (1st Dep’t 2008)). Also obtained sanctions in federal court and recommendation of contempt in state court against law firm for failure to comply court orders.
- Ballen-Stier v. Hahn & Hessen, 284 A.D.2d 263, 727 N.Y.S.2d 421 (1st Dep’t 2001). Obtained, by motion, dismissal of claims of sexual harassment and retaliation brought by a former partner against a law firm.
- Storey v. Cello Holdings, L.L.C., 347 F.3d 370 (2d Cir. 2003). Obtained dismissal of Rule 11 sanctions against law firm.
- Clapp v. LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & MacRae, 286 A.D.2d 643, 730 N.Y.S.2d 429 (1st Dep’t 2001). Obtained injunction against any further litigation by a former partner against a law firm.
- Harris v. LeBoeuf, Lamb, Green and MacRae, LLP, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18190 (S.D.N.Y. 2000), aff’d, 29 Fed. Appx. 733 (2d Cir. 2002). Obtained summary judgment dismissing claims of race discrimination brought by employee.
- Honzawa v. Honzawa, 268 A.D.2d 327, 701 N.Y.S.2d 411 (1st Dep’t 2000). Obtained, by motion, dismissal of malicious prosecution claim against a law firm.
- Jones Lang Wootton USA v. LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, 243 A.D.2d 168, 674 N.Y.S.2d 280 (1st Dept 1998). Obtained, by motion, dismissal of malpractice claim against a law firm.
- Graubard Mollen v. Moskovitz, 86 N.Y.2d 112, 653 N.E.2d 1179, 629 N.Y.S.2d 1009 (1995). Case defined the standards that now govern the rights and obligations of law partners who leave their law firms.