Lawyeringlaw.com Tip of the Month

Tip for July 2010

Consider Screening to Avoid Disqualification

Generally, every lawyer in a firm is imputed to have knowledge of the confidences and secrets of every client of the firm.  When a lawyer moves from one firm to another, she faces a double imputation:  the confidences and secrets of the clients of her former firm as well as those of her new firm.  When a client of her former firm is adverse to a client of the new firm, a conflict of interest may arise that could result in the disqualification of the new firm. 

Some jurisdictions allow disqualification to be avoided by "screening" the lawyer from any contact with the matter at the new firm that gives rise to the conflict.  The screening procedures need to be in place before the lawyer arrives at the new firm.  If not, the new firm may be considered "infected" with the confidences and secrets of the client of her old firm, resulting in the disqualification of the new firm.  Before taking on a lawyer from another firm that represents a client adverse to a client of your firm, check the ethics rules and case law of your jurisdiction to determine whether screening is permitted and what is required for effective screening.

This website contains additional information about effective screening.