In a malpractice action in New York State court, the plaintiff is seeking to obtain communications between his lawyer and the in-house general counsel at the lawyer’s firm concerning ethical issues relating to the client’s representation. The trial court held that the communications were not protected by the attorney-client privilege. The law firm appealed the ruling to the New York appellate court, and 74 law firms filed a motion arguing that law firms have a right to shield internal law firm communications regarding the current representation of their clients so long as those communications related to the rights and obligations of the lawyers.
In its amicus brief in support of the plaintiff client, ACC vehemently states its disagreement with the law firms’ position, arguing attorney-client privilege exists to serve the interests of clients – not attorneys. Granting lawyers a license to withhold communications from their clients would severely undermine the trust clients need to have in their lawyers. Law firms cannot and should not be permitted to place their own interests above those of their clients. Allowing attorneys to assert the privilege against their clients would give law firms and their attorney the ability to sweep under the rug communications that show self-dealing or malpractice.