Missed this one on the first go-around, but just stumbled upon it this morning. It seems that Philadelphia-based firm Pepper Hamilton issued a subpoena to a company in Detroit. The subpoena came from the Philadelphia office – and the lawyers found out after the fact that the company was a client of (you ready for this?) the firm’s Detroit office. Whoops. (The full write-up from the New Jersey Law Journal is here.)
Much of the article focuses on the fact that a conflicts check wasn’t done. But I think that misses the point – conflicts checks are for client engagements and can often take weeks. It’s impractical for a firm to go through a conflicts check for every witness it intends to subpoena. But a simple lookup in a CRM system would have identified the fact that the witness in question had been a client of the firm – for fourteen years!
Results of this gaffe? The firm was admonished by the judge, the NJ Law Journal picked it up and named names, and while the clients may be OK with the mistake, it’s clearly an uncomfortable situation. CRM is about maximizing opportunities to improve client relationships – which clearly would have been nice here. Just in case you’re wondering – no, the firm does not use InterAction, my company’s software.
(Side note: found the article in question after visiting law blog WeirdOfTheNews, a site whose lawyer owner claims owes its existence to the article I wrote for Law.com last month. Cool!)