The potential for conflicts of interest is not limited to attorneys. As the ethical rules recognize, the same considerations regarding the disclosure of a former client’s confidential information are present where a paralegal, legal assistant, or other nonlawyer moves from one firm to another. For that reason, firms and attorneys can be subject to some of the same restrictions based on the prior work of a nonlawyer as they would for a conflicted lawyer.

Firms can sometimes overlook conflict issues as they relate to nonlawyers. The consequences of such omissions can be serious, but they are largely manageable. In addressing the imputation of conflicts of interest, the California Rules of Professional Conduct include a comment clarifying that representation by others in a law firm is not prohibited where the individual prohibited from involvement is a nonlawyer, such as a paralegal or legal secretary, but that such prohibited persons “ordinarily must be screened from any personal participation in the matter.” California Rules of Professional Conduct, R. 1.10, cmt. [2].