Friday, November 4, 2011

Risk News & Updates: Conflicts of Interest, Side-Switching, Disqualification, ABA 20/20 Update

  • Wachtell Switched Sides in United Technologies - Goodrich Deal – "...after working with Goodrich on the deal for months, the law firm — one of the most prominent firms in corporate M&A — switched sides and began working with United Technologies, according to a regulatory filing released today."
  • ABA Ethics 20/20 Commission, which "Stands by Plans to Propose Latitude for Firms to Have Nonlawyer Owners," is working to extend the time frame for it to submit recommendations across all of the topics under consideration: "...if additional funding can be obtained, the panel's work will continue for an additional six months. Under this plan, commissioners will submit about half of their proposals for the delegates' review in August [2012], with the remaining recommendations to be presented for consideration in February 2013."
  • Overzealous disqualification in Lewis v. State – A school superintendent, charged with crimes including corruption, hired Alston & Bird to represent him. The prosecutor successfully moved to disqualify the firm because it also represented "the employer of a witness for the State, albeit with respect to matters unrelated to both the witness and the prosecution." Upon review, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision as unwarranted and overreaching given the facts of the matter and applicable rules: "The record reveals merely that Alston & Bird has a relationship with Parsons. The remainder of the case for disqualification consists of one conjecture piled upon another."
  • Nevada Supreme Court Adopts Disqualification Rule for Use of Information From Anonymous Source – "The Nevada Supreme Court held that a lawyer who received and used information regarding a case from an anonymous source should not be disqualified because he had promptly notified opposing counsel of the anonymous disclosure and did not review any privileged information contained in it."
  • Finally, the oft-cited hypothetical divorce consultation/conflict scenario (aka "The Tony Soprano Maneuver") recently played out in real life: Firm’s Links to Both Sides in Divorce Result in Total Denial of Attorneys’ Fees.

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