Do you ever wonder if your conflict checking software is doing all it’s supposed to do? Maybe you don’t even have conflicts checking software, but wonder whether you need it. When it comes to conflicts of interest, you can never be too careful. That’s why I recommend a two-step approach to checking for conflicts: First, you need some type of system for checking conflicts electronically, either as part of a document management system or a stand alone conflict checking software. Depending on the type of practice you have, even a word document search function may be sufficient for this first step (although not recommended).
Second, you need a method of checking for information that doesn’t make it into a conflicts checking system. That is, checking for information only known to members of your firm. Lawyers (and staff) have personal lives, friendships, family, connections, alliances, and business relationships outside of the law firm. It is information about these kinds of relationships that do not make it into law firm conflict checking software. That’s why, whenever a new potential client approaches the firm, we first check our conflict checking software (PCLaw), and then we send around an e-mail to all the lawyers and the firm administrator indicating pertinent information about the new potential client, including opposing parties, opposing lawyers, and any other relevant information about the matter. This is our back up system. After all, a conflict checking program or software is only as good as the information you put into it. Heck, if you completely rely upon the conflict checking system in your document management program, you could end up suing your law partner’s mother-in-law (let’s assume that would be a bad thing) or business partner. Always remember to talk to each other, communicate, and double check for those kinds of connections anytime a new potential client walks through the door.