Bar Counsel Notes: Screening of Non-lawyer Staff

Lawyer has an assistant (secretary) that used to work at another law firm. At that time, that law firm represented X. Party X has just now become an opponent of Lawyer's client, J. Given the legal secretary's former employment, does Lawyer now have a problem by continuing to represent J?

Under M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.10(a) [See Comment 4] and Professional Ethics Commission (PEC) Opinion #186, Lawyer's representation of J may continue with proper complete screening of that non-lawyer assistant secretary from any involvement in the matter.

*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.