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If you believe Legalmatch.com, one of its competitors is so anxious to horn in on its Internet matchmaking business that it resorted to lies to persuade more than half a dozen workers to jump ship. Casepost.com doesn’t deny hiring those employees, who are now at the center of a $20 million lawsuit filed by Legalmatch in San Francisco Superior Court last January. But a lawyer for the Irvine-based company, which plans to file a cross-complaint by next week, said Legalmatch is to blame because it created an unhappy work environment. Both companies help connect lawyers to potential clients. “We believe that the only reason for filing the lawsuit is just because Casepost is a competitive business right now with Legalmatch, and it’s growing,” said Brad Mokri, the Santa Ana lawyer defending Casepost and some of its employees. Don Keane, vice president of marketing for Legalmatch, denied it considers Casepost a threat, saying his 130-employee company is much bigger and “a market leader.” “At the end of the day,” he added, “we felt we needed to defend ourselves from a number of illegal practices by Casepost employees.” Legalmatch claims in the complaint that its former CEO � who is now Casepost’s CEO � has “actively solicited” some Legalmatch staff and “induced” them to violate their employment contracts. The suit also alleges that the CEO, D. Randall Wells, made “false allegations” about Legalmatch’s financial status to help persuade them. In addition to Casepost and Wells, Legalmatch names nine other former employees allegedly hired by Casepost in the last year in the suit. The San Francisco company claims they broke contract provisions prohibiting them from divulging confidential information � like customer lists � after leaving the company, and from helping to recruit any Legalmatch workers for at least two years. Mokri maintains no proprietary information has been shared. Those employees needed no encouragement to leave their old jobs, he added. “Legalmatch employees were not happy with their work environment, and they contacted Randy Wells,” he said. Ex-Legalmatch workers might have been talking to their former colleagues, Mokri allowed, but said that doesn’t mean they did anything wrong. “When you leave a job, you do communicate with your prior co-workers. It’s not against the law to communicate to them, to talk to them, to tell them, ‘I left my job,’” Mokri said. “What’s missing in [this] case is a factual showing, to show that there’s any connection.” Speaking for Legalmatch, Keane said, “We look forward to going to jury.” This is not the first time competition between the two companies has overflowed from the Internet marketplace into a court proceeding. The founder of Legalmatch, Dmitry Shubov, was indicted in federal court nearly two years ago, accused of illegally accessing Casepost’s voicemail with a code in order to listen to and delete the company’s messages. Shubov immediately resigned from Legalmatch and, according to court records, has since pleaded guilty to one count and received probation.

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