The Association of Corporate Counsel has taken two recent legal stands to promote in-house practice: one opposes a Pennsylvania trial court’s ruling that attorney-client privilege ends when a corporation is dissolved, and the other urges the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to expand its bar admission rules.
In its April 28 amicus brief [PDF] in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, ACC argued against chilling corporate communication and cited the importance of attorney-client privilege in today’s complex regulatory world. “Contrary to the trial court’s holding, that undeniable need does not diminish when a business faces dissolution,” said ACC chief legal strategist Amar Sarwal in a statement.
The brief states, “ACC is deeply concerned about the precedent in this case for both ACC’s members and their clients in Pennsylvania, as well as its national and international membership.” If the lower court’s ruling is allowed to stand, it could harm company stakeholders and “will significantly impair the ability of [other] in-house counsel to provide the legal advice necessary to guide their clients’ behavior and promote corporate compliance with the law,” the brief adds.
Burt Rublin and Andrew Kampf of Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia are representing ACC in the case.
In its other legal stand, ACC sent a letter [PDF] last week to the advisory committee on local rules for the federal district court in Washington, D.C., praising a proposal to eliminate reciprocity requirements for attorneys in cross-border practices. The letter said dropping the requirement aids in-house and corporate lawyers “in their efforts to more effectively represent their organization-clients.”
But the letter also suggests modifying the proposed rules to aid cross-border activities of in-house counsel. It was signed by Sarwal and David Kessler, who is senior director of legal operations at McAfee Inc. in Washington, as well as vice president of public policy for ACC’s D.C. metro area chapter.
The current rule limits admission to the Washington, D.C., bar to an active member in good standing of the highest court in the state where “the attorney maintains his/her principal law office.”
ACC proposed changing the rule to admit lawyers who are active members in good standing with the highest court of any state and who “are authorized to practice in the state in which the attorney represents his/her organization-client.”
Under the current rule, the letter argues, an in-house lawyer who is licensed to practice in Illinois could be hired by a company in Maryland and would not have to pass the bar in Maryland because that state accepts the Illinois license. But the D.C. bar would not accept the Illinois license under its current rule because the lawyer’s principal office is in Maryland.
ACC’s proposed change would assist nonlocally licensed in-house counsel “without undermining the purposes of the rule itself,” the letter states.