Citation. Meehan v. Shaughnessy, 535 N.E.2d 1255, 404 Mass. 419, 1989 Mass. LEXIS 87 (Mass. Mar. 28, 1989)
Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiffs, James Meehan and Leo Boyle, left the law firm of the Defendants, Maurice Shaughnessy et al. Plaintiffs wanted money they believed was owed to them under their partnership agreement, and Defendants countered that Plaintiffs violated their fiduciary duty and interfered with Defendants’ business.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A partner has the obligation to render a true and full accounting of business affecting the partnership.
Plaintiffs were long-time partners at Defendants’ firm. Both were very successful lawyers within the firm but became dissatisfied. Once Plaintiffs decided to leave, they gave thirty days notice (instead of the agreed upon three months — but this was waived by a partner in the firm), took other attorneys from the firm with them and contacted referring attorneys and clients about their imminent departure and provided forms to clients to switch to Plaintiffs’ new firm. Plaintiffs denied their intentions to leave on several occasions. However, Plaintiffs maintained their usual standard of performance during their entire association with the firm. When Plaintiffs left, they took 142 of the 350 pending contingent fee cases.
The partnership agreement provided rights for each of the parties after dissolution that resolved the allocation of business immediately. Departing attorneys were entitled to receive their share of capital contribution and net income currently entitled, as well as a right to a portion of the firm’s unfinished business. Issue.
The issue is whether the conduct of Plaintiffs violated a fiduciary duty owed to the remaining partners of the firm.