Law Practice Management

Law Firm Leverages Oops E-Mail Sent to Opponent to Win 'Eye-Popping' Protective Order

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A law firm retained by a group of California engineers to help protect them against potential interference after they established their own shop accidentally sent confidential e-mail to the group’s ex-employer, Arcadis, when an autocomplete function filled in an old e-mail address.

At Arcadis, the computer system automatically forwarded the misaddressed e-mail to the legal department. But Braun Hagey partner J. Noah Hagey made lemonade once the mistake was discovered, multiple message threads later, reports the Recorder in an article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

Alerted that its opponent had obtained confidential information when a meeting date referenced in the misaddressed e-mail was inserted into a counterclaim filed by Gordon & Rees on behalf of Arcadis, Braun Hagey successfully sought what the legal publication refers to as an “eye-popping” protective order from a federal judge in San Francisco.

It required Arcadis to get new outside counsel, remove one in-house lawyer from the case and wall off Arcadis’ general counsel—who admittedly read the incoming e-mail from Terraphase Engineering—from “all aspects of the day-to-day management” of the case.

The order also requires Arcadis to ante up $40,000 for Terraphase Engineering’s fees and costs.

Lawyers at Gordon & Rees and Hopkins & Carley, which is now representing Arcadis, either declined to comment or didn’t immediately respond to the Record’s request for comment.

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