ETHICS QUESTION OF THE MONTH
This content is generated by the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and is for informational purposes only. Look for the reasoning behind the answers at legalethicstexas.com.
Lawyer A has a corporate transactional practice at Law Firm X. She
announces to the firm that she is leaving the firm in two weeks to join
Law Firm Y. She lets the firm know which matters she will be taking with
her to the new firm.
Unbeknownst to anyone at Law Firm X, she photocopies some paper documents and downloads electronic versions of many other documents to a flash drive. These documents are from client matters she handled for clients of Law Firm X who are not going with her to Law Firm Y. She intends to keep these documents in her personal files for use as forms in drafting documents for her new clients at Law Firm Y.
Once she begins working at Law Firm Y, her new colleague, Lawyer B, asks Lawyer A for a form for a specific type of transaction. Because Lawyer A only has a paper copy of that particular form, Lawyer A makes a photocopy of that document and gives it to Lawyer B. Before she does so, she confirms that the client of Law Firm X identified in the document is not adverse to Law Firm Y.
Lawyer B is so pleased with the form that he asks Lawyer A if she has any forms on another specific type of transaction. Lawyer A replies that she does, but before giving him the document, she again checks conflicts and discovers that the client for whom it was prepared at Law Firm X is adverse to Law Firm Y. Fortunately, the document is electronic and stored on her personal flash drive, so before providing it to Lawyer B she deletes all information that specifically identifies, or could reasonably lead to identifying, the client. She provides the redacted document to Lawyer B.
Which is most accurate?
A. Lawyer A has violated the ethics rules by not
securing Law Firm X’s permission to take copies of documents from her
matters at Law Firm X before leaving the firm.
B. Lawyer A violated the ethics rules by sharing an unredacted form with one of her new colleagues at Law Firm Y.
C. Lawyer A violated the ethics rules by sharing the redacted form with a colleague at Law Firm Y because the document was prepared for a client of Law Firm X and that client paid for its creation.
D. All of the above.
E. None of the above.
The correct answer is B. For the reasoning behind the answer, go to legalethicstexas.com.TBJ
ABOUT THE CENTER
The Texas Center for Legal Ethics was created by three former chief justices of the Supreme Court of Texas to educate lawyers about ethics and professionalism. Lawyers can access the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, and a variety of other online ethics resources by computer or smart device at legalethicstexas.com.
The information contained in Ethics Question of the Month is intended to illustrate an ethics issue of general interest in the Texas legal community; it is not intended to provide ethics advice that applies regardless of particular facts. For specific legal ethics advice, readers are urged to consult the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (including the official comments) and other authorities and/or a qualified legal ethics adviser.