Most partnerships and LLPs have a right to expel a partner in their partnership or LLP agreements. The recent case of Kulkarni v Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust suggests by analogy to other professions that a partner may be entitled to legal representation at an expulsion meeting where the outcome could effectively deprive partners of their right to practise their profession.

In Kulkarni, the Court of Appeal discussed, obiter, whether the right to legal represenation could be restricted in circumstances where the relevant procedure engaged Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights ("Article 6"). Whether Article 6 is engaged will turn on the facts applicable to any proposed expulsion. If it is engaged, then a failure to permit legal representation (irrespective of the partner having no contractual right to the same) may be held to breach Article 6.

The application of the obiter dicta in practice may be limited, since expulsions rarely result in a partner being unable to practise elsewhere and so Article 6 may not be engaged. However this does not mean that the firm's management should ignore any request for legal representation from a partner facing expulsion. Indeed, such a request should be given careful and fair consideration and the firm will need to be satisfied that the provisions of Article 6 are not engaged (which will often depend on the specific facts) before refusing such request.

The firm should also be mindful of the duty of good faith applicable to general partnerships and sometimes found in LLP agreements when any request for legal representation is received.

See our Public law e-bulletin for further details. The decision is being appealed.

(Kulkarni v Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust [2009] EWCA Civ 789)