District Court Creates Guide for Attorney-Client Privilege in the Corporate Context

Law students and lawyers alike often go down the rabbit hole when considering what is and is not attorney-client privilege communications in the corporate context. On February 23, 2018, Judge Michael M. Baylson of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania released an order in SodexoMagic LLC v. Drexel University that sets out a set of hypotheticals for the parties to determine when privilege exists.  He comprised this set of hypotheticals after reviewing 50 documents in camera submitted by the parties as samples of disputed claims of privilege.

This court order is an extremely valuable resource for explaining privileged communications that can be withheld from production, and those that are not.  The challenged communications involved internal emails within the two corporations.  Some of the emails were between corporate counsel and employees of the corporation, and some were between others working with the corporate attorneys acting on their behalf.  When the corporate attorneys or their subordinates, such as paralegals, were providing legal advice, the privilege applied.  When the lawyers or their subordinates were “acting in a purely ‘scrivner-like’ role, their emails and documents (including draft agreements) are themselves not privileged communications.”  Judge Baylson then proceeds to analyze 13 of the emails and documents and explains which are and are not covered by attorney-client privilege.

This is a great order to review attorney-client privilege, and one that will make it into the next edition of Professional Responsibility: A Contemporary Approach!

“This sounds like my ethics class in law school…” Justice Sotomayor

The Supreme Court heard arguments today in McCoy v. Louisiana, which presents the question of whether it is unconstitutional for defense counsel to tell the jury that a client is guilty when the client insists he is innocent. It also raises interesting questions about the ethical obligations under ABA Model Rule 1.2 that “a lawyer shall abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of representation” and ABA Model Rule 3.3, Candor Toward the Tribunal.

As Justice Sotomayor observed in questioning McCoy’s attorney, “this sounds like my ethics class in law school, and this very hypothetical of what do you do with a lying client?” Full oral argument transcript is here.

Adam Liptak noted in the NY Times that the justices seemed likely to side with McCoy: “Several justices said a decision as fundamental as admitting guilt in a capital case belonged to the client rather than the lawyer.” Full article here.

Cross-posted at the Legal Ethics Forum

Powerful YouTube Video Relevant to Rule 8.4(g)

Professor Amy Salyzyn from the U. of Ottawa has circulated to the Canadian legal ethics community a link to this video entitled “But I was Wearing a Suit…” She also provided this description:

A compelling video that listserv members may be interested in watching. For those who teach legal ethics, also content to consider adding to our syllabi.  As described on YouTube:

 “A grassroots project of a group of Indigenous Lawyers, with the support of CLEBC and the Law Society of BC. To encourage discussion about stereotyping and bias within the legal profession, Indigenous lawyers were asked to submit their stories about the racism and stereotyping they have faced in the practice of law”

Amy is correct that this is a compelling and powerful video.  It is about 25 minutes long, but you can watch as much or as little of it as you want.  It contains numerous snippets of indigenous Canadian lawyers reciting into the camera their experiences, including numerous examples of times in which they were assumed not to be lawyers or treated rudely by fellow lawyers or court personnel.  This could be very useful to assign or show in class when teaching Rule 8.4(g).

But I was wearing a suit

Welcome!

Welcome to our community of professional responsibility teachers!  This web site provides teaching resources, ranging from syllabi and powerpoints to real time updates and videos.  The web site accompanies our casebook Professional Responsibility:  A Contemporary Approach (3d ed. 2017).   The Casebook uses the problem method and offers learning outcomes, multiple choice assessment questions, role plays and simulations, and an interactive online version that includes short audio lectures.  Please feel free to share your ideas and resources with our community of adopters.

You may review the Table of Contents here.

We look forward to getting to know you and working with you and our fellow adopters.

The Authors (Bruce A. Green, Peter A. Joy, Sung Hui Kim, Renee Newman Knake, Ellen Murphy, Russell G. Pearce & Laurel S. Terry)

Mayer Brown’s $1.6 Billion Malpractice Case is useful to teach “Who is the Client?” as well as conflicts & malpractice

The ABA Journal has a nice summary of the recent Seventh Circuit decision affirming the lower court’s dismissal of the malpractice lawsuit against Mayer Brown, which represented General Motors, for the erroneous release of a 1.6 billion dollar security interest against General Motors. The plaintiffs were the lenders whose security interests were released.

The Court held that Mayer Brown didn’t owe a duty to third parties who aren’t clients and that Mayer Brown’s representation of JPMorgan Chase Bank in different matter did not create a duty of care in the loan/security interest matter.  According to the Court, Plaintiff had offered 3 theories as to why Mayer Brown owed a duty of care to plaintiffs:  (a) JP Morgan was a client of Mayer Brown in unrelated matters and thus not a third‐party non‐client; (b) even if JP Morgan was a third‐party non‐client, Mayer Brown assumed a duty to JP Morgan by drafting the closing documents; and (c) the primary purpose of the General Motors‐Mayer Brown relationship was to influence JPMorgan.

Among other things, the Court stated: ““Consider the consequences of the rule plaintiffs advocate, that a law firm owes a duty of care to a party adverse to its client because the adverse party is a client in unrelated matters and has waived the conflict of interest.”  The Court’s opinion is here.