Thursday, September 8, 2011

Law Firm Conflicts Management: Responding to Disqualification Motions

A reader sent word of interesting article just published by the State Bar of Wisconsin: “Navigating Conflict-Interest Disqualification Motions.” It reviews criteria courts consider when facing conflicts-driven disqualification motions, including standing and other procedural elements, as well as response strategies for law firms.

The author was involved in a seminal State Supreme Court case on the topic, Foley-Ciccantelli v. Bishop’s Grove Condominium Ass’n Inc. (Decided May 2011).

While focused on Wisconsin law, the article weaves in ABA commentary and extensive advice on how to fight and appeal disqualification motions. Most importantly, it reviews prudent steps to avoid them in the first place, which include:
  • Well crafted engagement letters that call out clients and non-clients, as well as the scope of representation
  • Limiting initial interviews of potential clients 
  • Obtaining waivers (including advance waivers)
  • Erecting ethical walls that are timely and effective to screen lawyers and avoid imputed disqualification: “Proper screening includes restricting access to files, electronic databases, and correspondence and drafting written memoranda that detail restrictions, all in a timely fashion.”
For more detail, see the complete text of the article.

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