Risk Update

Conflicts Software & Systems — Your Law Firm Should Have It (and Use It), Risk Experts Remind Us

Case a reminder law firms must have comprehensive conflicts system” —

  • “A Federal Court judge, citing Lawson Lundell LLP’s failure to take adequate or timely measures to prevent information confidential to a dispute from being shared internally in the face of a conflict of interest, has disqualified the firm from acting on judicial review applications against the party to whom the information belonged.”
  • “The twist in the case (GCT Canada Limited Partnership v. Vancouver Fraser Port Authority 2019 FC 1147), is that GCT Canada Limited Partnership, the party that successfully sought Lawson’s removal, was never a client of the firm.”
  • “‘The case is a reminder that law firms must have a comprehensive conflicts system in place, one that records not only the names of clients but other parties from whom confidential information may have been derived,’ said Gavin Mackenzie of MacKenzie Barristers Professional Corporation in Toronto, a prominent expert on legal ethics. ‘And when a name comes up that could give rise to a conflict, the firm must ascertain whether it has confidential information and what can be done about it.'”
  • “‘There is no dispute that GCT was never a ‘client’ of Lawson,’ Pentney wrote. ‘In this case, however, I find that the conflict rules do apply to Lawson because GCT imparted confidential information to Lawson in the context of a solicitor-client relationship between Lawson and BCI. Indeed, the very nature of the BCI retainer required Lawson to examine confidential and proprietary information about GCT in order to provide advice to its client. … I accept that the [conflicts] rules must be considered and applied with a degree of flexibility in view of the fact that this is a situation involving a non-client, but I find they do apply.'”
  • “‘Lawson did not take adequate and timely steps to prevent any sharing of, or access to, this confidential information because it had not identified the situation of conflict,’ Pentney wrote.”