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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22-Interviews with Prospective Clients

31-Protecting and Disclosing Confidences and Secrets

Under ABA Model Rule 1.18, a lawyer who has received "significantly harmful" information from a prospective client may not (absent consent) represent that prospective client's adversary if the lawyer is not hired — although under some circumstances that lawyer's colleagues might be able to screen that lawyer and represent the adversary. The term "significantly harmful" does not include "information that causes embarrassment or inconvenience," but includes "information relating to '[c]ivil or criminal liability.'" Examples of "significantly harmful" information include: "views on various settlement issues including price and timing;" "personal accounts of each relevant event [and the prospective client's] strategic thinking concerning how to manage the situation;" an outline of "potential claims;" "specifics as to amount of money needed to settle the case;" "the underlying facts and legal theories about [a] proposed lawsuit;" "'sensitive personal information' in a divorce case;" "premature possession of the prospective client's financial information;" "knowledge of 'settlement position;'" "a 'prospective client's personal thoughts and impressions regarding the facts of the case and possible litigation strategies;'" "'the possible terms and structure of a proposed bid' by one corporation to acquire another."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn