Tortious interference between attorneys?

Yesterday, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided, in the case of Frank J. Nostrame v. Natividad Santiago, that attorneys can sue each other for tortious-interference with business, when one attorney steals another attorney’s client. The case involved a malpractice suit on contingency, which Nostrame filed, but which another attorney, Mazie Slater, later took over after the client terminated the relationship with Nostrame. The court held that a successful suit will need to allege specific wrongful means, such as deceit, defamation, misrepresentation, fraud, or even violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct such as those that limit solicitation.

Will this unleash a barrage of lawsuits between rival firms? Will it usher in a new era of kinder, gentler business practices between attorneys? In my practice, I have not yet heard an attorney allege that another attorney “stole” his or her client or potential business. Perhaps this is because Central New Jersey has historically had a more collegial atmosphere among lawyers. Perhaps it’s because the legal field is small enough, it isn’t worth complaining about another attorney, lest one burn an important bridge. In any case, it is my sincere hope that this case does not open the door to attorney competition becoming a major portion of the courts’ concern.

This entry was posted in Small Business Law and tagged law firm, New Jersey Supreme Court, tortious interference on by Robert Colby.

About Robert Colby

Robert Colby is the Managing Attorney of Colby & Associates. His work focuses on small business matters, including commercial litigation, formation, transactional work, dissolution, and labor/employment law. He can be reached at [email protected]