Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

An ex-client has sued Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr and a Chicago partner at the firm, accusing the partner of referring a case against her to his father, a solo attorney.

Farva Jafri, a former client of Saul Ewing, filed a legal malpractice complaint last week in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, against Saul Ewing and partner John Gekas. Gekas had been a partner of Chicago-based Arnstein & Lehr, which merged with Saul Ewing last year.

According to Jafri, Gekas represented her and her former employer, Signal Funding LLC, from May 2017 to December 2017. She and Signal were defending against a case brought by Oasis Legal Finance Operating Co. LLC. Jafri ended the representation on Dec. 4.

Signal planned to sue Jafri for trade secrets violations, the complaint said, and Gekas referred the case to his father, Constantine Gekas, on Dec. 1. Then on Dec. 7, John Gekas withdrew his representation of Jafri and Constantine Gekas served Signal’s complaint on Jafri.

Signal alleged in its suit, which is pending in the same federal court, that Jafri sent company information to her personal email as she was preparing to leave her employment at Signal, where she was an officer.

Jafri’s complaint says John Gekas and his father both “were partners in a law firm entity, Gekas Law LLP” when Constantine Gekas filed the complaint on Signal’s behalf. She claims that Gekas violated his fiduciary duty by referring the case to his father.

“During the course of defendant Gekas’ defense of plaintiff in the Oasis state court action, plaintiff disclosed to him unreservedly plaintiff’s work at Signal Funding, and use of template documents from Oasis, which Oasis alleged constitute Oasis trade secrets,” the complaint said. “Constantine Gekas is presumed by law to have received confidential, attorney-client privileged information about plaintiff Jafri through his professional, business and familial relationship with defendant Gekas.”

In a statement Wednesday, Saul Ewing said: “Because this is an active litigation matter and because Ms. Jafri is a former client, we will not comment on specific allegations in the complaint beyond saying that if and when we need to file an answer, we expect to deny the substantive allegations. We believe that the facts will demonstrate that John C. Gekas, Esquire and our law firm acted appropriately.”