2014 National Lawyers Convention
Once upon a time, corporations, government departments, and other entities made their own decisions about how long to retain documents created or received in the course of business. Today, document retention policies can present difficult issues for the entities, for the lawyers who advise them, and for the courts that are called on to decide the consequences when documents are no longer available. Particularly in the electronic age, where computers die, people delete their emails, and backups are not always reliable, document retention cannot be counted on. What are an attorney’s obligations? Should a lawyer bringing suit write to the other side and warn that entity not to engage in normal document destruction and to back up particularly important data? Does the company being sued have to comply? These are some of the questions that the panel will address.
In-house lawyers may face particular difficulties. Does the lawyer represent only the institution, or does the lawyer also have obligations to the employees? Should the lawyer advise the employees to censor themselves in emails sent via the employer’s email system? Should employees be encouraged to communicate about work through their personal email instead? How does an in-house lawyer handle the conflicts between representing individuals who do not want to disclose discoverable emails for emails unrelated to ongoing litigation (perhaps because they made impolitic comments about their supervisors)?
Finally, the panel will discuss if there are special obligations for counsel representing government entities. Government records have a unique status. They document the conduct of public business and are necessary for transparency and, more formally, are subject to retention and preservation requirements. Should lawyers advise government clients that backups cannot be destroyed for years, contrary to current IRS policy? Should lawyers inform government employees that their personal emails, if discussing issues related to their work, may also be discoverable? How does the government’s duty of transparency to the public affect its disclosure obligations and the lawyer’s corresponding obligations to her client?
The Federalist Society's Professional Responsibility & Legal Education Practice Group presented this panel on "'The Dog Ate My Emails!': Document Retention Policies, Litigation Holds, and Legal Ethics on Saturday, November 15, during the 2014 National Lawyers Convention.
- Ms. Jamie Brown, Global eDiscovery Counsel, UBS AG, and former Associate General Counsel, Commodities Futures Trading Commission
- Mr. Daniel Epstein, Executive Director, Cause of Action
- Mr. Patrick Oot, Partner, Shook Hardy & Bacon L.L.P., and former Senior Special Counsel for Electronic Discovery Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
- Mrs. Victoria A. Redgrave, Managing Partner, Redgrave LLP
- Ms. Julie Goldsmith Reiser, Partner, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC
- Moderator: Hon. Jerry Smith, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
- Introduction: Jack J. Park Jr., Of Counsel, Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP; and Chairman, Professional Responsibility & Legal Education Practice Group
Mayflower Hotel Professional Responsibility & Legal Education and Litigation Practice Groups Podcast
Steven Donziger, a self-styled social activist and Harvard educated lawyer, signed on to a budding class action lawsuit against multinational Texaco (which later merged with Chevron to become the third-largest corporation in America). The suit sought reparations for the Ecuadorian peasants and tribes people whose lives were affected by decades of oil production near their villages and fields. During twenty years of legal hostilities in federal courts in Manhattan and remote provincial tribunals in the Ecuadorian jungle, Mr. Donziger and Chevron’s lawyers followed fierce no-holds-barred rules. Mr. Donziger proved himself adept at influencing the media, Hollywood, and public opinion. He cajoled and coerced Ecuadorian judges on the theory that his noble ends justified any means of persuasion. And in the end, he won a $19 billion judgment against Chevon – the biggest environmental damages award in history. But the company refused to surrender or compromise. Instead, Chevron targeted Mr. Donziger personally, and its counter-attack revealed evidence of his politicking and manipulation of evidence. Suddenly the verdict, and decades of Mr. Donziger’s single-minded pursuit of the case, began to unravel.
Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
The recent indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry has garnered huge press attention. In an unusual alignment, commentators from both the left and the right have been highly critical of the indictment, with the New York Times editorial board calling it “the product of an overzealous prosecution.” But condemnation of the indictment has not been perfectly unanimous, and a few commentators have now come out in support of the indictment. We examined all the details on a Teleforum conference call.
2013 National Lawyers Convention
- Prof. John S. Baker, Jr., Visiting Professor, Georgetown University Law Center, and Professor Emeritus, Louisiana State University Law School
In 1990, the Supreme Court unanimously held that an integrated state bar association, which all lawyers licensed in a state must join, could not use the compulsory dues paid by its members to pursue political or ideological activities unrelated to regulating the legal profession or improving the legal system. Keller v. State Bar of California, 496 U.S. 1 (1990). The Court explained, “[T]he extreme ends of the spectrum are clear: Compulsory dues may not be extended to endorse or advance a gun control or nuclear weapons freeze initiative; at the other end of the spectrum petitioners have no valid constitutional objection to their compulsory dues being spent for activities connected to disciplining members of the Bar or proposing ethical codes for the profession.” Id., at 15-16.
In the nearly 25 years since the Court decided Keller, the entities empowered to promulgate ethical rules binding on the lawyers practicing in a state have imposed a variety of regulations, some of which are more closely and clearly related to the regulation of the legal profession than others. Requirements like continuing legal education and contributions to client security funds are generally seen to fall within the scope of permissible regulation. The imposition of mandatory diversity training in Minnesota and a requirement that law students perform a specified number of hours of pro bono work as a condition to their becoming licensed to practice in New York look different.
Should state regulation of the bar be limited to imposing rules whose purpose is the protection of client interests? Or, can the regulators impose rules designed to make lawyers “better” people in the belief that “better” people will better serve their clients? How far can the organized bar go in “proposing ethical codes for the profession?” To what extent do programs like mandatory diversity training and requiring law students to perform a specified number of pro bono hours serve the interests of clients?
The Professional Responsibility & Legal Education Practice Group hosted this panel on "Regulation of the Legal Profession in the 21st Century: Should Professional Regulation Favor Social Policy over Client Protection?" on Saturday, November 16, during the 2013 National Lawyers Convention.
Professional Responsibility: Regulation of the Legal Profession in the 21st Century: Should Professional Regulation Favor Social Policy over Client Protection?
10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
- Mr. Scott Johnson, Co-Founder and Contributor, Power Line Blog
- Mrs. Margaret A.? Little, Partner, Little and Little and Director, Pro Bono Center, The Federalist Society
- Prof. Thomas D. Morgan, Oppenheim Professor of Antitrust and Trade Regulation Law, The George Washington University Law School
- Prof. Alan B. Morrison, Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest/Public Service, The George Washington University Law School
- Moderator: Hon. David R. Stras, Associate Justice, Minnesota Supreme Court
- Introduction: Mr. Jack Park Jr., Of Counsel, Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP
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