In my latest ethics column for The Bencher, the publication of the American Inns of Court, I highlighted a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit which upheld the refusal to disqualify a law firm based on legal ethics rules 1.9 and 1.10.
In sum, those rules codify the fundamental premise of our system of litigation that the same lawyer cannot represent two parties who are adverse to each other in the same case, even if one is a former client. Specifically, Model Rule 1.9 prohibits a lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter from:
“representing another person in the same or substantially related matter in which the person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client.”
The intriguing factual twist in this case involved a lawyer representing a party in a pending case who moved to the law firm representing the adverse party while the case was still pending–but once she joined the law firm representing the opposing party, that law firm followed all the necessary procedures to create an ethical wall that prevented her from having any access to that litigation.
Of course, the legal analysis and the detailed facts require a lengthier explanation, but for those interested in this topic the complete article is linked above.