Risk Update

Lateral Moves, Client Data, Conflicts & Ethical Obligations

An interesting story relating to lateral movement of staff and movement of client data (or metadata): “In dispute over client list with former employee, Webb Law Firm of Pittsburgh loses motion for judgment” —

  • “A judge in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas last year ruled against a law firm that was sued by one of its former employees for breach of contract and tortious interference.”
  • “Alexander worked at the firm for five years but was terminated in April 2016. Two months later, he emailed Michael Somerhalder, the firm administrator, requesting a list of application numbers, client names, applicant names, assignee names and inventor names for all patent applications that Alexander worked on while he was with the firm, the suit says. Alexander says he wanted the information for another job he was applying for at Reed Smith. The list of clients was a stipulation if Alexander wanted to work at Reed Smith, he claims. Reed Smith did not return a message seeking comment.”
  • “The Webb firm denied Alexander access to those records and the plaintiff was unable to procure the job at Reed Smith, the lawsuit says. ‘There is no language in the offer letter discussing any duty on the part of Webb to comply with the Pennsylvania rules or the USPTO rules, let along supply plaintiff with the client list he requested,’ Webb firm lawyers said in court documents.”
  • “The Webb firm also contacted the Pennsylvania Bar Association Ethics Counsel to inquire if it had an obligation under the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct to provide the list requested by plaintiff. Webb was told it did not have such an obligation, it says.”
  • “Alexander said in filings that professional conduct rules impose an ethical obligation upon Webb to produce the requested listing of client names and impose an ethical obligation plaintiff to avoid conflicts of interest based on the requested information.”