Mark Dubois: Changing Nature of Legal Practice Leads to More Client Conflicts

On the same day that I read that bankruptcy attorney Myles Alderman had left Halloran & Sage to return to his old firm because conflict issues were hindering him in representing his former clients, it was reported that Dentons, the 1,000-plus lawyer megafirm, was defending a motion to disqualify because its U.S. office had taken on a claim against a corporation that its Canadian office regularly represented.

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What's being said

  • Bruce Matzkin

    Chirp chirp,

  • Bruce Matzkin

    Mark, I wonder what you‘d think about this: One 50% owner of an LLC (a macaroni & cheese restaurant) sues the other on behalf of the LLC for allegedly defalcating with LLC funds... the LLC being the named plaintiff. A major law firm, through two partners, appears for the LLC and the individual owner, two separately-named plaintiffs. It later comes to light that the individual plaintiff was secretly working with his daughter to open a competing macaroni & cheese restaurant. The LLC, through the other 50% owner (defendant in the defalcation action), then sued the competing business, the plaintiff for violating his LLC contract, and the daughter for tortious interference (the daughter admitted in an injuntion hearing that she knowingly hired her father to help start the competing business and to give her a location on property he owned that had previously been publicly announced as a new coming location for the original LLC‘s restaurant, despite being fully aware that her father was bound by a non-competition covenant in the LLC‘s operating agreement). The same two lawyers representing the LLC through the father then appeared to defend the newly-formed company being sued by the LLC through the other partner.To put it simply: two lawyers from a major firm concurrently represented both the original macaroni & cheese LLC, and the competing one being sued by it, along with the father and daughter who were working against the LLC the lawyers represented, in the same litigation. And the judge allowed it (after having a few weeks before, upon the lawyers‘ informing her that they may appear for the competing company, said "That would seem to be a conflict of interest."). And, a grievance panel dismissed a grievance by the other owner of the LLC based on this obvious conflict, with a written explanation by their panel counsel that did not even acknowledge this multiple, concurrent representation of adverse companies in the same litigation.You noted that "most lawyer discipline deals with solo and small-firm practitioners, and conflicts between clients are not a big issue if you have few clients." You‘re right... and that‘s because neither judges, nor grievance panels, are willing to hold major, powerful law firms accountable for even misconduct as blatant as this was.

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