Former Proskauer exec facing theft lawsuit planned to join Paul Hastings

Signage is seen at the office of Proskauer Rose LLP  in Manhattan, New York City
Signage is seen on the exterior of the building where law firm Proskauer Rose LLP is located in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Paul Hastings says it won't hire Jonathan O'Brien
  • Proskauer sued him last month, claiming he stole sensitive data

(Reuters) - The former chief operating officer at U.S. law firm Proskauer Rose planned to take a new job at competitor Paul Hastings before he was sued last month for allegedly stealing a trove of confidential documents, his lawyer said Monday.

Proskauer said in a lawsuit last month that its ex-COO John O’Brien tricked firm employees into letting him copy sensitive data on clients, lawyer compensation and other matters and then wrongfully deleted thousands of emails before giving notice on Dec. 20 that he was quitting the firm.

“While it is unfortunate that an apparent overreaction based on Proskauer's mistaken assumptions has improperly interfered with Mr. O'Brien's planned position at Paul Hastings, he nevertheless looks forward to resolving this entire matter quickly and continuing his successful career in the legal field,” said O’Brien’s attorney Russell Beck, of Beck Reed Riden.

A Paul Hastings spokesman said on Monday that O'Brien is not joining the firm but declined to comment further, citing a policy not to discuss "any firms' personnel matters."

Proskauer’s complaint does not identify Paul Hastings as O’Brien’s next employer, but says Proskauer believed he intended to use its confidential documents at a competitor firm or as a consultant.

A federal judge on Dec. 28 temporarily restrained O’Brien from working with any entity with whom he has discussed employment or consulting on or after Dec. 5, and prohibited him or others from using or disseminating any data he took from Proskauer.

Beck said O'Brien returned all of Proskauer’s work devices and materials upon his return from an overseas vacation and certified that he had not shared any of the firm’s information and had no intention of doing so.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 24.

(NOTE: This story has been updated with a comment from a Paul Hastings spokesman.)

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Reporting by Karen Sloan

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at