Commentary—Loyalty by Contract: A Sad Reflection on Lawyer Ethics

Vol. 22 No. 3


Lawrence J. Fox is a partner of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP in Philadelphia and a member of the ABA House of Delegates. Mr. Fox is also the Crawford Lecturer at Yale Law School, where he teaches professional responsibility. He is the founder and the supervising lawyer for the Ethics Bureau at Yale.

The conscientious lawyer does not relish being micro-managed. I for one have always been dismissive of the elaborate guidelines for outside counsel imposed by so many sophisticated corporate users of legal services. To be sure, there are good reasons corporate GC’s have been put in this position. The guerilla warfare waged by so many law firms, using their retainer letters as a way of “contracting out” from provisions of the rules of professional conduct, is one. And relentless amendments to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and their comments, enabling lawyers to squirm out of what was once an unshakable duty of loyalty to the client, is another. Lawyers cannot expect to launch these bazookas at prospective clients and not endure heavy artillery in response.

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