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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lawyers out of work? Time to relax the conflicts rules!

Yesterday the ABA house of delegates voted to revise Rule 1.10 to allow the screening of lawyers whose past representation of a client would otherwise create a conflict that would be imputed to any firm that the lawyer joined -- i.e., conceivably I could be representing plaintiff, then switch in the middle of the case to the firm representing defendant.  As long as my new firm puts in an adequate screen, I do not need the plaintiff's consent.  Several states already allow this, and there are good arguments on both sides of the debate.  The timing is not ideal, though.  This is the only major policy change emerging from the mid-year conference, so news accounts will undoubtedly highlight the ABA protecting its own when times get tough.

Posted by Rob Vischer on February 17, 2009 at 11:04 AM | Permalink

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Comments

On second thought, I feel that it cuts both ways, but I don't believe that it was driven by the recent downturn. It's been in the works for some time now.

Posted by: John Steele | Feb 18, 2009 2:47:30 PM

I have to agree with Robert on that. Strict conflicts rules tend to multiply the number of lawyers and to increase the percentage of lawyers who are equity owners.

Posted by: John Steele | Feb 18, 2009 12:18:28 AM

The conflicts rules are "full employment" statutes for lawyers. Allowing screening reduces the need for different firms, different lawyers. It is the guild that was not protecting itself yesterday.

Posted by: Robert | Feb 17, 2009 2:58:16 PM

Isn't the main function of professionalism rules or "legal ethics" to reinforce the guild-like nature of the practice of law? When I was studying for the MPRE, I realized it was unnecessary to learn the model rules; it is possible to pass the test by determining which answer best protects the cartel.

Posted by: JP | Feb 17, 2009 12:41:56 PM

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