SCBAR
  Login
Ethics Advisory Opinions
UPON THE REQUEST OF A MEMBER OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA BAR, THE ETHICS ADVISORY COMMITTEE HAS RENDERED THIS OPINION ON THE ETHICAL PROPRIETY OF THE INQUIRER’S CONTEMPLATED CONDUCT. THIS COMMITTEE HAS NO DISCIPLINARY AUTHORITY. LAWYER DISCIPLINE IS ADMINISTERED SOLELY BY THE SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT THROUGH ITS COMMISSION ON LAWYER CONDUCT.

Ethics Advisory Opinion 95-28Law firm A has hired an attorney who was formerly employed at law firm B where he worked in the administrative and governmental relations area. Law firm B is defending several civil lawsuits that have been brought by various members of law firm A. The attorney did not work on any of these files, has not billed any time to any of the clients of law firm B on these files or any closely related cases, has not been a part of any meeting where these cases were ever discussed, and is not aware of any strategy law firm B or their clients may employ in these cases, and has not seen or heard any confidential information about any of these cases or any closely related cases during his tenure at law firm B.

Question:
Does the hiring of this attorney by law firm A disqualify either law firm A or law firm B from continuing their respective representation in the civil litigation?

Summary:
Rule 1.9(b) operates to disqualify the lawyer only when the lawyer involved has actual knowledge of confidential information protected by Rule 1.6 and Rule 1.9(b). If the lawyer acquired no knowledge or information relating to the client, and that lawyer later joined another firm, neither the lawyer individually nor the second firm is disqualified from representing another client in the same matter even though the interests of the two clients conflict.

Opinion:
Conflicts of interest arising from representation of a client by a lawyer's former firm are governed by Rules 1.6 and 1.9. The rules identify three competing considerations which must be taken into account:

1. The client represented by the former firm must be reasonably assured that the principle of loyalty to the client is not compromised; 2. The rules should not be so broadly cast as to preclude other persons from having a reasonable choice of legal counsel; 3. The rules should not unreasonably hamper lawyers from forming new associations after having left the previous association.

Rule 1.9(b) operates to disqualify the lawyer only when the lawyer involved has actual knowledge of confidential information protected by Rule 1.6 and Rule 1.9(b). If the lawyer acquired no knowledge or information relating to the client, and that lawyer later joined another firm, neither the lawyer individually nor the second firm is disqualified from representing another client in the same matter even though the interests of the two clients conflict.