George O'Brien Jr., who is head of Littler Mendelson's New Haven office, isn't concerned about conflicts of interest being created when he hires lateral partners. His employment firm represents management exclusively and most of his hires come from similar firms. That greatly limits chances that a new attorney would have worked at a firm involved in the case on the opposite side as Littler Mendelson.
On one level, O'Brien welcomed the Connecticut rule makers' recognition "that ethical screens can be an effective way to protect the interests of the clients of both the firm that a lawyer is leaving and the firm he or she is joining."
However, O'Brien is somewhat concerned over language in the amendment that states that a client has the right to "ascertain" whether a former lawyer has complied with conflict-of-interest rules. O'Brien pondered whether a client might interpret that phrase to mean something that the rule makers didn't intend.
"I trust that these [written notices offered by the lateral partner] will suffice to enable the former client to 'ascertain compliance,'" O'Brien said. "And that the rule will not be interpreted to allow the former client to root around in the firm's internal affairs, since that could be a source of mischief."