Can Legal Assistant Share Confidential Information With New Employer ?
In the case of In Re American Home Products Corp., 985 S.W.2d 68 (Tex. 1998), the court was again concerned with the disqualification of counsel.
In the course of its discussion, it reiterated its prior holding in Phoenix Founders, Inc. v. Marshall, 887 S.W.2d 831, 835 (Tex. 1994) that, while the presumption that a legal assistant obtained confidential information is not rebuttable, the presumption that the information was shared with a new employer is rebuttable.
The court observed that there is a marked distinction between lawyers and nonlawyers with respect to this rule. Id. at 75; see also Phoenix Founders, 887 S.W.2d at 834 and Grant v. Thirteenth Court of Appeals, 888 S.W.2d 466, 467 (Tex. 1994).
Such distinction was created to ensure that a nonlawyer's mobility would not be unduly restricted.
However, the court emphasized that the only way the rebuttable presumption could be overcome would be: (1) to instruct the legal assistant not to work on any matter on which the paralegal worked on during the prior employment, or regarding which the paralegal had information relating to the former employer's representation;
( 2) "to take other reasonable steps to ensure that the paralegal does not work in connection with the matters on which the paralegal worked during the prior employment, absent client consent." In Re American Home Products Corp., 985 S.W.2d at 75.