Opinion 2016-4 discussed the Imputation of Conflict Involving Current and Former Legal Interns. Law school clinics provide legal services to prepare law students to be practice ready and to meet legal needs of persons qualifying for clinic services.
This opinion answered an inquiry from a law school legal clinic asking:
- whether conflicts arising from a legal intern are imputed to the lawyers in a law firm when a legal intern is employed at the firm as a law clerk and
- whether imputed conflicts disqualify both the law firms and clinics from representing certain clients.
The opinion looked at practice by a law student with a valid legal intern certificate issued pursuant to Gov. Bar R. II. The opinion found that a law student holding such a legal intern certificate is engaged in the limited practice of law and bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct.
The opinion stated that conflicts of interest arising out of a legal intern’s current or former representation of clients are imputed to all lawyers in a private law firm when the intern is employed simultaneously as a law firm clerk. However, the conflicts of a former legal intern newly employed as a lawyer are not imputed to the lawyers in a law firm, but may necessitate the screening of the lawyer from any matter in which he or she had substantial responsibility.
This information is useful as more law students become involved in law school clinics. It also emphasizes the importance of good conflict of interest checking systems for all client engagements.
Click here to view the Malpractice Alert Nov/Dec 2016.