Informal Opinion Number: 2017-07

Adoption Date: 2017

Rules: 4-1.9; 4-1.10
Client-Lawyer Relationship
Duties to Former Clients
Imputation of Conflicts of Interest: General Rule
Subject: Conflict of Interest - Former Client; Conflict of Interest - Imputed Disqualification; Leaving a Law Firm
Summary: conflicts when lawyer leaving a law firm and joining another law firm

Question: Does Attorney have a conflict of interest in joining a firm that represents Client B, where Client B has interests adverse to Client A represented by Attorney’s current firm, while Attorney has not entered an appearance on behalf of Client A, and Attorney did not handle Client A’s matter on a day-to-day basis or communicate with Client A, but Attorney represented Client A at depositions and filed motions on behalf of Client A?
Answer: Because Attorney has represented Client A, Rule 4-1.9(a) governs Attorney’s duty to Client A after Attorney leaves the firm representing Client A and joins the firm representing Client B. Rule 4-1.9(a) prohibits Attorney from representing Client B in the same or substantially related matter in which Client B’s interests are materially adverse to those of Client A unless Client A gives its informed consent, confirmed in writing. Unless Client A gives that consent, Attorney’s conflict of interest will be imputed to the other lawyers at the new firm by Rule 4-1.10(a). Missouri does not recognize screening under Rules 4-1.10 or 4-1.9. The new firm’s disqualification may be waived by Client A under the conditions stated in Rule 4-1.7. See Rule 4-1.10(c).

Informal Opinions are ethics advisory opinions issued by the Office of Legal Ethics Counsel to members of the Bar about Rule 4 (Rules of Professional Conduct), Rule 5 (Complaints and Proceedings Thereon), and Rule 6 (Fees to Practice Law) pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 5.30(c). Written summaries of select Informal Opinions are published for informational purposes as determined by the Advisory Committee of the Supreme Court of Missouri pursuant to Rule 5.30(c). Informal opinion summaries are advisory in nature and are not binding. These opinions are published as an educational service and do not constitute legal advice.

To request an Informal Opinion, please visit: https://mo-legal-ethics.org/for lawyers/requesting-an-informal-advisory-opinion/.

© Copyright 2023