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                                             87 N.J.L.J. 285
                                            May 7, 1964


Appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court


Conflict of Interests - Employment

    An attorney makes the following inquiry:

        I am an individual practitioner. I recently employed a young attorney who had been employed previous thereto by another attorney. While he was so employed by the other attorney, my office and the other attorney's office were involved in two matrimonial contested cases which are still pending. I have left strict instructions with my office and with the young attorney who is employed by me that he is not to handle any phase of or be involved in any way while in my employ with the two cases which were pending and involve his previous employment. I am desirous of ascertaining whether, in view of the above facts, it would be a breach of ethics for me to continue to represent the clients in those two matters.

    Canons of Professional Ethics, Canon 6 provides that the obligation to represent the client with undivided fidelity and not to divulge secrets or confidence forbids the subsequent acceptance of employment from others in matters adversely affecting any interest of the client.
    Canon 37 extends this duty to the employees of an attorney and further provides that neither of them should accept employment which involves or may involve the disclosure or use of those confidences to the disadvantage of the client.
        The injunction not to represent conflicting interest applies equally to law partners representing different clients who have interests conflicting with one another; also to lawyers, not partners, having offices together; and to one formerly a clerk;... . Drinker, Legal Ethics 106 (1953).     

    Our determination would not be affected even though the employee may not have been engaged in this particular matter. However, if the consents of the opposing attorney and both clients are secured, the attorney may continue in these matters. Otherwise, it is our opinion that it would be improper for him to continue in these matters.

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