Photo of Christian W. Marcelo

On September 10, 2020, San Diego law firm Slate Law Group filed suit after a former associate left the firm to become in-house counsel for a firm client, ClickUp.  Slate alleged that attorney Derek Dahlin misappropriated Slate’s trade secrets by providing ClickUp with confidential business information including Slate’s contract templates and work product.

According to the complaint, Dahlin was brought on as an independent contractor for Slate in March 2020 and was hired as a full-time associate on April 21.  The complaint further states that shortly after Dahlin began working on ClickUp matters, ClickUp solicited Dahlin to become its in-house counsel.

Slate alleges that while Dahlin was negotiating his employment with ClickUp he accessed and provided Slate’s work product to ClickUp.  Slate claims that any work product Dahlin created while at Slate belongs to Slate and the copying of this work product, such as its template contracts, infringes its copyrighted works.  Dahlin and ClickUp have not yet filed their answer.

California, like most states, prioritizes a client’s right to choose their counsel, so it remains to be seen how this case will shake out.  But it is a good reminder that law firm work product can sometimes qualify as trade secrets and that lawyers are not immune to misappropriation claims.

Case:  Whiteslate, LLP v. Dahlin et al., 3:20-cv-01782-W-BGS in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.