Bar Counsel Notes: Duties to Former Firm Clients

Attorney X has left law firm Q for another law firm in the same town, and will continue to focus his practice mostly on family matters. He has been contacted by H to handle a renewed divorce action against W, who was earlier and remains represented by an attorney at law firm Q. While he was associated with law firm Q, Attorney X never acquired any information about W's earlier divorce matter. Does X have a prohibited conflict of interest in taking on H as a client at his new law firm?

Under these facts, Attorney X does not have a conflict of interest under MRPC 1.9(b)(2) and may undertake representation of H without requesting or obtaining W's consent. Rule 1.9(b) disqualifies X from representation of an adversary of a client at his former firm only if X has actual knowledge of information from W protected by Rules 1.6 and 1.9(c). Because Attorney X never acquired any such information relating to W, he and his new law firm are not disqualified from representing H.

*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.