Bar Counsel Notes: Former Client Conflicts

Bob seeks to hire Attorney, currently a sole practitioner. Their initial consult occurs three months after Attorney left employment at firm ABC. That former firm has now filed a harassment complaint on behalf of Mary against Bob. While at ABC, Attorney knew nothing of any matters involving Mary and her lawsuit had not been filed or even discussed while Attorney was at the firm. Is there any conflict in Attorney's handling Bob's defense of Mary's civil suit against him?

MRPC 1.9(b) (former client conflicts) should be consulted and reviewed. Under these limited facts, Attorney's prior employment at ABC does not prohibit her current representation of Bob against Mary, a client represented by Attorney's prior firm. Because Attorney had never "acquired information protected by Rules 1.6 and 1.9(c) that is material to the (new) matter" while employed at ABC, her representation of Bob does not result in a prohibited conflict of interest.

*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.