As reported in The Ethical Quandary Blog, the California State Bar Board of Governors has approved a new rule on imputation of conflicts of interest based on ABA Model Rule 1.10, but, oddly, it has opted to let the issue of ethical screening be decided on a case-by-case basis. The Board’s proposed change is now pending consideration by the California Supreme Court.
I guess I have to think more about this one, but my gut reaction is that it is a bad idea. It seems to me that any time you leave things to be decided "on a case by case basis" you run the risk of ending up with more disputes and litigation, inconsistent results, and, more importantly, less guidance as to how to avoid a problem. Specific rules help know what to expect and, thus, how to prepare for a possible problem.
On the other hand, a case by case approach provides flexibility for instances where applying a hard line rule might be unfair. Also, I assume that as case law develops on the issue more specific answers will emerge. Until that happens, though, some clients may have to become guinea pigs, no?
What do you think?