Court’s value of law firm interest KO’d on appeal

BVWireIssue #243-2
December 14, 2022

case law analysis
business valuation, fair value, law firm valuation, limited liability company, operating agreement

No operating agreement and no buy-sell agreement can trigger dragged-out fighting when a member or owner leaves the firm. Such is the case with a law firm (an LLC) in Maryland, where one of the firm’s five members withdrew and the haggling started over the value of his 26.5% interest. Two years after withdrawing in 2017, the member sued the firm for his share—and the battle continues.

Court goofs: The trial court rejected the value the firm’s valuation expert put forth and did its own figuring. The member withdrew on Jan. 9, 2017, and, absent an operating agreement, the court looked to the state’s “bare bones” LLC statute, interpreting it as meaning that the member was entitled to his share of the firm’s profits through the end of 2017. The firm’s profit for 2017 was $319,594, so 26.5% of that was $84,692. The decision was appealed.

The appellate court ruled that the trial court misinterpreted the LLC statute and should not have considered the firm’s profits after the date of the member’s withdrawal. The case now goes back to the trial court to determine the member’s “fair value of assets, profits, losses, and distributions to which he was entitled on January 9, 2017.”

The case is Furrer v. Siegel & Rouhana, LLC, 2022 Md. App. LEXIS 745; 2022 WL 9834101, and the full court opinion and a case analysis are available on the BVLaw platform.

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