Lawyers’ departure sparks fight over laptops (and information contain herein)

The ABA Journal and the National Law Journal report that a Pennsylvania boutique firm sued 14 lawyers for stealing laptops pertaining to the departed law firm.

After the suit was filed, the departing lawyers erased the laptops to preserve what they say were their clients’ sensitive data, and returned the computers. Now the law firm hired computer experts to determine what information was on the laptops.

This is an interesting problem because while the laptops belong to the law firm, it is arguable that the same can be said for the information contained herein. In fact, there might be some work product and some firm’s material but the bulk is probably clients’ information.  Clients’ information in the laptop belong to the clients hence to the lawyer that the client has chosen to be with, which could either be the law firm or the departing lawyer. In the second case, the law firm is entitled to the work product and to the firm’s material, but not to the client information (but maybe it could be argue that law firm is entitled to a copy of client file).

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