These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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18-Consent and Prospective Waivers

22-Interviews with Prospective Clients

28-Law Firm Staff

Although not bound by lawyers' ethics rules, law firms' secretaries must maintain the confidentiality of information they learn. Thus, a secretary who receives confidential information from a prospective client whom the law firm does not represent (because it wishes to or already does represent the prospective client's adversary) must maintain the confidentiality of that information. Lawyers in that firm can avoid disqualification from representing the adversary if the lawyers screen the secretary from the matters, instruct the secretary "that she cannot reveal to the lawyer any confidential information obtained from Ms. X [the prospective client]," and use another staff person to work on the matter. In addition, the law firm "should send a written communication to Ms. X or her lawyer that these measures have been taken." Such screens do not prevent imputed disqualification involving an individually disqualified lawyer, but can successfully avoid imputation of a non lawyer's individual disqualification. The firm may have to withdraw from representing the adversary if the screen is breached. The Bar "recommends that the firm train non lawyer support staff to minimize confidential information obtained from prospective clients before they can perform the necessary conflicts analysis."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn