Headscratchers / The Good Wife
So Stern leaves Stern, Lockhart & Gardner to set up his own firm and then starts poaching staff almost immediately. If I remember correctly, English company law states that a partner can't just set up a competing company immediately after he's left the partnership or use any inside information he received while he was in his original partnership. Is this the case in American law as well? Additionally, even if it doesn't say that anywhere in the statute wouldn't any self-respecting law firm have a clause to that effect in their partnership agreement?
- It might be, though if he keeps the clients then he probably is able to use what he already knows as he is now that client's attorneys. Any clients he doesn't keep he has to stay quiet about or stop representing.
- There really isn't such a provision in American law, although there have been lawsuits filed about this practice (a quick google turns up this case, for instance). As for contracts: well, it is strongly implied (if not outright stated) that Stern is the founding partner and that he brought on Will and Diane later (the 'alter macher' storyline, "he brought us together," etc.). Why would the founding partner, i.e. the person with all the power, sign any such agreement?
Maybe more importantly, this show occasionally completely ignores conflict law that is the bedrock of Attorney ethics. For example, in the episode "Breaking Up," the firm continues to represent both a client and his girlfriend after it is made clear that one or the other might be interested in turning the other in. This is a textbook conflict of interest where the firm would have to drop one of the two immediately. They do split the labor so it isn't actually the same lawyer representing both of the accused. They might have been able to make a "Chinese Wall" argument where they stayed out of contact with one another and shared no information. There are two problems with this: a) They explicitly agree to stay in contact and b) the courts have taken a very dim view of the "Chinese Wall" argument and have held that it is simply not enough to fulfill their duty to both clients, especially in such closely related cases as this.
- I know the actual reason is probably Artistic License – Law, but how can Eli be a partner in a law firm, you have to be a lawyer to do that, and now he even wants his name on the door?
- I'm not sure if equity partners have to be lawyers, though yes, named partners probably would. So maybe he is a lawyer, but doesn't practice except in relation to managing political campaigns?