124 N.J.L.J. 1122
November 2, 1989
Hiring of Associate Previously
Employed as Law Clerk in Another Firm
Engaged in Asbestos or Tobacco Litigation
The inquirer, a member of the Judiciary, asks whether or not
the appearance of impropriety described in Dewey v. R. J. Reynolds
Tobacco Co., 109 N.J. 201 (1988), would or should extend to
non-lawyers or law students who did not have substantial
responsibility for or access to confidential information in a
matter while in the employ of another firm.
We believe that our prior holding in Opinion 525, 113 N.J.L.J. 365 (1984) applies equally as well to law school graduates, law clerks, pre-law school clerks and summer interns. More specifically, it is our opinion that a prior association with asbestos or tobacco litigation should not, under ordinary circumstances, be a bar to subsequent employment with law firms involved in such litigation, provided that some form of "Chinese wall" or screening mechanism is created to isolate them from contact with such litigation. Opinion 525, supra., 113 N.J.L.J. 365; Opinion 361, 100 N.J.L.J. 1 (1977), modified, In re Advisory Opinion 361, 77 N.J. 199 (1978). Accordingly, such employment would not be violative of the "appearance of impropriety" referred to in Dewey v. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., supra., 109 N.J. 201, or otherwise require disqualification of the hiring firm from a pending matter.