Issue: Role and Status

Significance: In-house counsel are full members of the legal profession, and ACC fights all efforts to treat in-house counsel differently than all other lawyers.

Description: Historically, around the world, regulators and bar committees have often treated in-house lawyers as second-class citizens. They have justified this bias by falsely claiming that in-house lawyers cannot say “no” to their clients and, thus, lack independence. This stereotype is false. In fact, ACC formed, in part, to fight these perceptions. In-house lawyers are just as smart, sophisticated, experienced, hard-working and ethical as other lawyers. Efforts to draw lines between in-house counsel and other lawyers make no sense. Often, they mask protectionism. They harm clients. And ultimately, they hurt the profession by making it more difficult for organizations to obtain the legal counseling they need.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What sorts of bias exists against in-house counsel?
A: Quite a few — even today. In the United States, some jurisdictions still require in-house lawyers to pay client protection fees that their employers will never benefit from. Judges and regulators often don’t understand the job of in-house counsel and, therefore, have unrealistic expectations about what they can do. For instance, one federal court recently indicated that in-house counsel must sit in on every trial involving their company, which is simply not feasible for many legal departments.

Q: How do other countries around the world treat in-house counsel?
A: Often, even worse than in the United States. In the European Union, the courts have held that no privilege applies between in-house counsel and their clients in certain competition matters. In France, in-house lawyers must step down from the bar in order to work in-house. And many countries around the world simply do not recognize that in-house lawyers are full members of the legal profession.

Role and Status

ACC Files Amicus Supporting Privilege When GC Functions as Both Lawyer and Negotiator

  • ACC Position: 

    ACC joined the US Chamber of Commerce in an amicus brief filed June 2, arguing against a “new and aggressive theory of attorney-client privilege” advanced by the FTC that would undermine the ability of in-house attorneys to freely communicate legal … Continue reading

FILING UPDATE: ACC Prevails in Case Involving a Novel Application of Rules of Professional Conduct to In-house Counsel Compensation

  • Issue:  Whether in-house counsel are subject to the rules of professional conduct on reasonable fee arrangements, conflicts of interest and duty of loyalty when negotiating compensation packages with their employers.
  • Court:  Court of Appeals of the State of Washington
  • Date of Filing:  05/09/2016

  • ACC Position: 

    On May 9, 2016, ACC and its Washington Chapter prevailed in a case in the Washington Court of Appeals involving one of the most bizarre application of the rules of professional conduct to in-house counsel that ACC Advocacy has ever … Continue reading

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