Law Practice Management and Technology

The Bottom Line Volume 35, No.6 , December 2014

MCLE Self-Study Article Protect Your Firm From Disqualification: Screen New Employees

By John D. Sager, Esq. and Donna W. Low, Esq.

This article is posted in our self-study catalog.
Click here for information on how to access 1.0 study credits

In today’s economic climate, legal secretaries, paralegals, law clerks, and other non-professional staff move from one law firm to another. Nonlawyers who apply to your firm for employment may have previously worked at a firm representing a party in litigation that is adverse to a current client of your firm. There has been extensive discussion regarding the ethical problems created by attorneys changing employment from a law firm representing one party in litigation to a firm representing an adverse party. However, much less attention has been paid to the potential ethical issues created when a nonlawyer changes firms. The good news is that with early detection and careful screening, nonlawyers possessing confidential information about an adverse party may be effectively screened from working on the litigation, thus virtually eliminating the risk that your firm will be disqualified from the case in question.

An attorney should be aware of the proactive steps that are necessary when hiring nonlawyer employees to avoid disqualification. This article outlines the steps a hiring attorney should take when hiring any nonlawyer employee, with a focus on the proactive steps required to institute an effective screen of a nonlawyers who possesses confidential information obtained from an adverse party.

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