** Despite your best efforts, a matter or client in which you have a possible conflict of interest may slip through.If this happens, bring it to the attorney's attention as soon as you become aware of it.The memo should advise employees that they are not permitted to communicate any information about the file with, or in front of, the person with whom the conflict of interest exists.** Maintain in the file a hard copy of that memorandum establishing the ethical wall (a) to remind people about the wall and (b) in case a challenge to the wall is made by an adversary or other individual.HOW TO IDENTIFY A POSSIBLE CONFLICT OF INTEREST ** On your first day of employment (if it has not been done during the interview process), ask the supervising attorney or other appropriate person for a list of legal cases or matters that the firm or employer is handling.Review that list to identify the names of clients, parties in litigation, acquaintances, friends, or family members that you recognize.
If you work in litigation, also review the names of attorneys representing the various parties.PURPOSE OF ERECTING AN ETHICAL WALL The primary purpose of erecting an ethical wall is to protect the client's confidences and secrets.Sometimes an ethical wall is erected not because the person with whom the conflict exists would reveal the client's privileged information but simply to "avoid giving any appearance of impropriety." In other words, the ethical wall is erected to ensure that there is absolutely no opportunity for client's confidences and secrets to be revealed to anyone other than those handling the client's legal matter.HOW DOES A PARALEGAL KNOW WHEN A CONFLICT OF INTEREST EXISTS?For paralegals who are supervised by or accountable to an attorney, the attorney is obligated to determine whether there is conflict of interest between the paralegal and the client or legal matter.Usually, the client or matter name is sufficient to assess this.** As new clients and legal matters come into the office, or if new parties are added to cases already underway, check their names against your list as described above.Additionally, if the matter is adversarial (i.e., in litigation), the attorney must obtain the adversary's consent.** Send a memorandum alerting all firm or corporation employees to the conflict of interest.** Maintain your list of matters on which you work throughout your paralegal career. An ethical wall (or Chinese wall, as it used to be called) is an imaginary boundary placed around an individual or individuals with whom a conflict of interest is discovered.This imaginary boundary is supposed to bar any communications, written or verbal, between the members of the legal team handling a matter and the person with whom the conflict of interest exists.