Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ethical Screens for Non-Lawyer Staff

Last month we pointed out an article published by the ABA: "Screen nonlawyer employees for conflicts of interest," which provides an initial overview. This month, the ABA brings us part 2 in its July Newsletter which includes more detailed analysis:
  • "In this month's column, we discuss how different state bar ethics opinions, rules of professional conduct and case law address both the appropriateness and effectiveness of screening for nonlawyers."
  • "In addressing screening of nonlawyers, many state bar ethics opinions look to Model Rule 5.3 Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistants, which requires a lawyer who has supervisory authority over nonlawyer employees to 'make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that the person's conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer.'"
  • "Some state bar opinions provide specific guidance as to how to set up a screen. See e.g. Los Angeles County Bar Association Opinion 524 (2011)..."
  • "Some recent case law also endorses the idea of formalizing screening rules for nonlawyers. See, Zimmerman v. Mahaska Bottling Co., Kan., No. 83,554, (2001) (Kansas Rule of Professional Conduct 1.10(b) applies to nonlawyernext hit employees as well);"
  • "...state rules of professional conduct, ethics opinions and case law all provide guidance on both the appropriateness and effectiveness of screening for non lawyers when they move from one firm to another. These sources of authority can vary state by state. If these questions ever arise in your practice, check your local rules, ethics opinions and case law. You might also consider contacting your state or local bar association for further guidance and information."
Again, see the complete article for more background and a hefty serving of links and citations across multiple jurisdictions.

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