Labor / Employment, Legal Ethics

Seyfarth Lays Off a First-Year Associate — Then Gets Her New Firm Kicked Off a Case

Sarah Getchell.jpgEd. note: This post has been revised in a number of important respects after it was published. As a result, many reader comments have been superseded, because they refer to parts of the post that have been edited or deleted. Please refresh your browser to read the latest version. Thank you.
Sarah Getchell is having a rough 2009. The University of Michigan grad was a first year at Seyfarth Shaw, until being laid off in May (perhaps as part of this bunch).
She found new employment at a small labor law firm, Lichten & Liss-Riordan. But then Seyfarth used her hiring to get the new firm removed from a case — not very nice.

From the National Law Journal:

A federal magistrate judge has booted a Boston plaintiffs law firm from an overtime case because of a conflict created when it hired a laid-off Seyfarth Shaw associate…

[U.S. District Magistrate Judge Robert B. Collings] determined that the former Seyfarth Shaw associate had material information that was substantial to the case, creating a conflict of interest requiring Lichten & Liss-Riordan’s disqualification.

This shouldn’t be seen as Getchell’s fault; if anything, the hiring attorney at Lichten & Liss-Riordan may have failed in her due diligence. Shannon Liss-Riordan called Seyfarth for a reference and was told “serious conflicts” could arise.
Getchell testified that she had “absolutely no memory” of working on the case at Seyfarth and had only billed seven hours of work to the matter, which seems like a slender reed upon which to hang a disqualification motion.
Prominent firm disqualified from federal overtime case [Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly]
Associate Hire Gets Plaintiffs Firm Booted From Case [National Law Journal]

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