O’Gara Coach Co., LLC v. Ra (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 1115

Before he became an attorney, the principal attorney in the law firm now representing a former employee against his employer was the employer’s president and chief operating officer.  He supervised outside attorneys conducting an investigation of the conduct that led to the employee’s dismissal.  The soon-to-be attorney then left the employer, passed the bar, and began representing former employees in lawsuits against the employer.  The trial court denied the employer’s motion to disqualify the attorney’s law firm, ruling that, because the attorney was not an attorney when he ran the employer, his current legal representation of fellow former employees could not violate the employer’s attorney-client privilege.

In a published decision, the Court of Appeal reversed.  Adopting GMSR’s arguments regarding this unique factual situation, the appellate court directed the trial court to disqualify the attorney and his entire law firm.  The appellate court explained that even though the attorney was not an attorney when he ran the employer, he was privy to the employer’s confidential attorney-client communications.  Now, as an attorney, he is duty-bound not to disclose or use those confidential communications against the employer and therefore neither he nor his law firm can represent the former employee in litigation against the employer.

California Court of Appeal Opinion – View Document