Risk Update

Lawyer & Staff Departure Risk — Leavers Stealing Client Files & Keeping Client Contact Data

Yesterday we highlighted departure rules. Today we look at the other side (upside down?) of the coin. First: “Attorney takes client information from law firm and is ordered to return the data and pay $775,000.” —

  • “Attorney Chelsea Merta was ordered to pay more than $775,000 to the Stange Law Firm where she was employed for expenses incurred in its attempt to get her to return electronic files she was accused of taking before her she resigned. The funds are being requested to cover the law firm’s costs of investigating the matter, including an exam conducted by a forensics expert to determine exactly what information had been hijacked and associated attorney fees. This was reportedly more than $100,000. Merta was also ordered to either destroy or return the stolen files to the firm. She served a two-day jail sentence for contempt earlier this year.”
  • “In a confession of judgment recently filed, Merta admitting to taking no less than 22,000 data files from the law firm in February 2018, a week before her resignation. She had indicated she wanted to contact the clients she had previously represented with the firm and urge them to work with her again at her own firm. She said she had made contact with a number of clients, notifying them of her resignation. However, this wasn’t entirely true.”

Cokinos Young, Former Marketing Director Settle Suit Over Confidential Client Info

  • Cokinos Young has settled a suit it filed in July against its former marketing director, Brittany O’Brien, that alleged she kept confidential client contact information when she resigned and threatened to use client cellphone numbers to ‘make this a war.'”
  • “On Wednesday, 113th District Court Judge Rabeea Collier of Houston signed an agreed permanent injunction and final judgment that restrains O’Brien from disclosing or using any confidential or trade secret information she obtained from Cokinos Young, a midsize construction law firm based in Houston.”
  • “It also requires O’Brien to return any confidential information she has from the firm “to the extent she has any,” including promotional materials and all documents she used as director of client and external relations for Cokinos Young. And she was ordered to return or delete any private contact information for the firm’s clients other than those who contact her. The order does not prevent O’Brien from communicating with people or companies who contact her on their own.”
  • “O’Brien’s attorney, Gregg Rosenberg of Rosenberg & Sprovach in Houston, said his client is pleased the litigation settled. He said O’Brien left Cokinos Young because she did not want to sign a non-compete agreement. ‘This case is very unique because we never felt she did anything wrong. All Brittany did was refuse to sign a noncompete when she was working there,’ he said. The settlement frees O’Brien to seek another job in her field, he said, noting that nothing in the order precludes her from working in the legal industry.”
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