A former Dentons litigation associate appeared in Los Angeles federal court Oct. 18 and pleaded guilty to accessing the firm’s computer system behind its back to get protected information.

Michael Potere got rid of a more serious extortion charge by copping a plea to the misdemeanor computer fraud charge.

Potere’s case is a prime example of a young lawyer’s disenchantment with the legal world. It also shows how tough it is for law firms to close off unwanted internal access to sensitive electronic communications.

Potere admitted in his plea agreement that he secretly downloaded confidential Dentons information and then demanded...