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Breaking Up is Hard to Do — But not with advice from the Brooklyn Bar

October 21, 2015 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Daniel Antonelli, Kaylin L. Whittingham and Richard A. Klass discussed something that can be tricky for many attorneys — how to properly break up with clients. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese
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Relationships — whether familial or romantic — are never easy. The same is true for attorneys, which is why the Brooklyn Bar Association hosted a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar Tuesday titled “Termination of the Attorney-Client Relationship: Prevention, Planning and Procedure” to give lawyers tips on the proper way to end relationships with their clients.

“People don’t really talk about it that much,” said Daniel Antonelli, the moderator for the CLE seminar. “Everybody knows that a client has to consent, and if they don’t consent, you have to make a motion; but the ins and outs are what I was personally curious about.

“Nobody wants to break up,” Antonelli continued. “Today’s material is not just a how-to on how to break up, but it’s also a how-to on how to prevent it and how to plan for it. We want people to walk away from this program with tools necessary to reduce the number of clients that [they] have bad interactions with.”

Antonelli was joined by attorneys Kaylin L. Whittingham and Richard A. Klass for the presentation. Whittingham was formerly a member of the Grievance Committee, first department, and Klass was recently appointed to the Grievance Committee, second department.

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“Teaching how to run the business of law is a lot different than teaching the practice of law,” Klass said. “I think there are some things that you can do at the beginning of your law practice that impact how your attorney-client relationships are later on when you have problems that will hopefully minimize or eliminate those problems.”

As in any relationship, all three attorneys stressed communication as an important tool to avoid problems in the attorney-client relationship.

“A lot of times, they don’t understand what’s in your control or out of your control, or you probably didn’t understand exactly what’s expected of you initially,” Whittingham said. “You can’t over promise and you have to know what is expected of you as far as the results and the timing. They might think that their case will be over within two months, but we know the court system, and that’s not really possible.

Whittingham also said that attorneys need to be smart about the clients they choose and said it’s important not to accept just any client who tries to hire them.

“The process of doing a consultation shouldn’t just be the clients interviewing you, you should be interviewing the clients,” she said. “One of the things you must learn is that not all clients are right for you. There is no marriage counseling for attorney-client relationships. I keep that in mind because when a relationship starts going bad, it can get really bad.”

The Bar Association will host its next CLE seminar on the role of trademarks in the fashion industry on Thursday. Attorneys Biana Borukhovich, Theodore C. Max, Pamela Weinstock and Busaya Olupona will host that seminar at 6 p.m.

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