Opinion 92-14
(September 1992)

You have asked for an opinion on the following facts: For several years you were a lawyer in a law firm which had a contract to represent the members of a legal service plan. During that period, you handled hundreds of cases involving clients of the plan, many of which involved domestic relations.

The issue you raise before this Committee is whether you can, in a domestic matter, at your new firm, represent the spouse of a plan member, who was, when you were a plan attorney, represented by another attorney at your former firm. You further indicate that you were never a partner in the firm, and that you have no confidential information at all regarding cases at your former firm for which you were not the attorney.

Pennsylvania Rule of Professional Conduct 1.10b addresses imputed disqualification of an attorney moving from one firm to another. It does not provide for imputed disqualification of an attorney in your position.

The Comment to Rule 1.10, although not law in Pennsylvania, does provide guidance directly on point. It provides in part that,

Paragraphs (b) & (c) operate to disqualify the firm only when the lawyer involved has actual knowledge of information protected by Rules 1.6 and 1.9(b). [These are the Rules which address client confidentiality.] Thus, if a lawyer while with one firm acquired no knowledge or information relating to a particular client of the firm, and that lawyer later joined another firm, neither the lawyer individually nor the second firm is disqualified from representing another client in the same or a related matter even though the interests of the two clients conflict.

The Committee is of the opinion that you may proceed to represent clients adverse to parties who were represented by another attorney in your former firm while you were employed there, provided that you had no confidential information about those parties.

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.