Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Model Rule 1.10

As reported yesterday, the big news out of the ABA meeting is the approval of a substantial amendment to Model Rule 1.10. Before the amendment a law firm would be disqualified from continuing to represent a client in a matter if the firm hired a lawyer who had acquired confidential information about the oppossing party in the matter in his/her prior job. The new rule allows the firm to continue representing its client if it institutes a mechanism to "screen" the new lawyer -- preveting him access to anything and anybody related to matter.

As I pointed out in my previous post, I have never been a fan of screening even though it has been the practice in Illinois for years. The new Model Rule does add a few new requirements that make is better than the Illinois version. For example, the new Model Rule requires the hiring firm to give the incoming lawyer's former client written notice of the screening procedures. The firm must also let the client know they may seek judicial review and the new rule bars screened lawyers from directly sharing compensation from matters they're disqualified from due to the conflict.

Yet, for many, these changes are still not enough. For example, one comment to the ABA Journal.com article listed below states: "It is a sad day that sees the passage of this recommendation. In the context of massive layoffs, it certainly appears that real ethics have give way to the interests of stranded, individual lawyers and surviving firms that want to “cherry pick” from the castaways. Lawrence Fox is right. Violations will occur and will be covered up. Clients will have to fall back on common law duty of loyalty (and common law principles that impute knowledge within firms) when they suspect their confidences have been purchased with a lateral. . . ."

Here are some useful links:

Click here for the text of the new rule.

Click here for an article in the ABA Journal.com that summarizes the debate.

Click here for an article in Law.com.

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