Privilege Should Broadly Protect Lawyers’ Confidential Communication With Firm In-House Counsel

29 Jan, 2013

In a legal-malpractice case before the Georgia Supreme Court, an American Bar Association amicus brief urges that the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine should protect confidential communications between a firm’s lawyers and its in-house counsel unless there is compelling cause for a legal exception. 


The brief, filed in St. Simons Waterfront LLC v. Hunter, Maclean, Exley & Dunn P.C., urges that lawyers, like other clients, should be encouraged to seek confidential legal advice from their in-house counsel on legal and ethics issues and that they should be able to rely on the privilege and work product doctrine unless there are facts compelling a legal exception. 


Stating its strong interest in the matter of attorney-client confidentiality, the ABA filed the brief in response to the court’s request for briefs on the privilege question. 


“Many ABA members belong to firms with designated in-house counsel and are affected by decisions requiring production of communications between lawyer-clients and such counsel,” the brief stated. It observed that “in-house counsel have become fixtures at law firms” because lawyers “face an increasingly complex array of legal and ethical duties arising from complicated regulatory regimes, changes in rules of professional conduct, and heightened disclosure obligations under a range of legislation, including Sarbanes-Oxley.”


Picture: ABA President, Laurel Bellows.  

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