Many clients know that attorneys have a code of ethics that they must follow but they do not know the specifics of that code. A case that was recently decided by Judge Carr in Cook County decided an issue regarding what duty is owed to former clients.
Under Rule 1.9 Of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct the Duties to Former Clients are as follows:
(a) A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent.
(b) A lawyer shall not knowingly represent a person in the same or a substantially related matter in which a firm with which the lawyer formerly was associated had previously represented a client
(1) whose interests are materially adverse to that person; and
(2) about whom the lawyer had acquired information protected by Rules 1.6 and 1.9(c) that is material to the matter; unless the former client gives informed consent.
(c) A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter or whose present or former firm has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter:
(1) use information relating to the representation to the disadvantage of the former client except as these Rules would permit or require with respect to a client, or when the information has become generally known; or
(2) reveal information relating to the representation except as these Rules would permit or require with respect to a client.
Under this rule, Judge Carr determined that a lawyer that was previously at a law firm representing the wife and then moved to a law firm representing the husband, even though the wife had obtained new counsel and was not represented by the law firm the attorney had left from, and the attorney was not involved in representation of the husband, required a disqualification on part of the husband’s law firm. Based on evidence that Judge Carr heard, he did not find that a sufficient “Chinese Wall” existed and the husband’s law firm should be disqualified. (Illinois Divorce Digest Volume 6, Issue, 10, December, 2015.)
Lawyers are guided by the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct in how they are to respond to the ethical concerns that they face in their practice. More information regarding these rules can be found at:http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/supremecourt/rules/art_viii/artviii_new.htm