In-house counsel and outside help: Ethical issues in dealing with advisors, agents, affiliates, and associated third parties

Jointly presented with the Association of Corporate Counsel: National Capital Region

Corporations increasingly tackle business challenges through an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach. Companies and their in-house counsel routinely work with all manner of outside advisors—such as management, marketing, operational, and human resources consultants. Companies also often turn to outside advisors when responding to legal troubles (or when seeking to avoid them) including crisis management firms, forensic accountants, data breach experts, and investigators.

This trend toward collaboration with outside advisors can produce friction with the legal ethics rules defining the unique and confidential relationship between a client and in-house counsel. Companies themselves have increasingly complex corporate structures, where relations with affiliates, subsidiaries, and joint venture partners present their own distinct ethical challenges for in-house counsel. This is particularly highlighted where joint ownership or work across national boundaries is involved.

This interactive two-hour program, presented by Tom Connally, Jon Talotta, and Tom Trucksess of Hogan Lovells, along with Chuck Neff of Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc., examined legal ethics issues that arise when counsel work with their client's non-lawyer advisors, agents, and consultants, and when their work involves affiliates, subsidiaries, partners, and other associated third parties. Using hypotheticals, the presenters relied on their real-world experience to provide practical advice so that in-house counsel can recognize and proactively navigate ethical obligations and potential pitfalls relating to

  • client identification,
  • conflicts of interest,
  • privilege and waiver issues,
  • common interest and joint representations,
  • disputes with outside advisors, and
  • adversarial dealings with related entities.

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