Federal Court Sets Guidelines for Denying Attorney-Client Privilege on Communications

Hiring a lawyer for a general counsel role – either in-house or by retaining outside counsel to perform that role – can benefit organizations in countless ways. Unlike outside attorneys who are consulted on a piecemeal basis, corporate or general counsel are very familiar with the organization’s operations, leadership, and goals. Because they are often privy to and included in discussions of key business decisions and developments, they can ground their legal advice on a thorough understanding of the organization and its history. That intimate connection to the organization’s business life, however, operates as a double-edged sword. As some court decisions illustrate, the regular inclusion of general counsel in business communications can strip communications with corporate counsel of the presumption that they are protected by attorney-client privilege.

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