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Preserving the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege for corporate in-housers is among the chief goals of the new American Corporate Counsel Association Chairman, William B. Lytton. Overseeing a legal department of more than 60 lawyers worldwide from his office in Stamford, Conn., International Paper Co. Senior Vice President and General Counsel William B. Lytton doesn’t have time to waste on unproductive meetings. When it comes to belonging to professional organizations, Lytton’s rule is simple: If he doesn’t get at least one good idea per gathering, he stops going. That same “value-added” philosophy, Lytton vowed in a recent interview, will guide him through his one-year term as chairman of the one group he does swear by: the American Corporate Counsel Association. Elected to head the 13,000-member organization Oct. 14, Lytton pledged to continue to make ACCA relevant to in-house counsel’s day-to-day lives. At the same time, he will push the organization’s agenda on issues ranging from multijurisdictional practice to attorney-client privilege protections for corporate law departments’ work product. NO STRANGER TO THE SPOTLIGHT ACCA’s chairmanship is just the latest of a string of high-profile assignments that Lytton has held dating back to 1987, when he was appointed as deputy special counselor to then-President Ronald Reagan. In that post, he coordinated the White House’s response to both congressional and independent counsel investigations into the Iran-Contra scandal. He stayed on in that role during the Bush administration, as well. Previous to his stint as a presidential consultant, Lytton spent eight-and-a-half years as a federal prosecutor in Chicago and Philadelphia. His current job as chief legal officer at Stamford-based International Paper, where Lytton has worked since 1996, follows high-level, in-house positions at Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Electric Aerospace. His involvement in ACCA, Lytton said, has been invaluable to his running a corporate legal department. His annual report to senior management at International Paper, he confessed, is actually based on an idea he picked up at an ACCA meeting. The report compares Lytton’s budget and staffing to that of law departments at comparably sized companies, and outlines the “returns,” or cost-savings, that International Paper has gained over the prior year by adequately investing in a corporate legal staff. Before joining the corporate counsel organization, “it never occurred to me to do that,” Lytton said. NOT GIVING UP ON MJPS Unlike many bar associations, ACCA, he maintained, is “unique,” in that it tackles issues that are pertinent to the daily lives of its members. In that role, the agenda for its annual meeting, held in San Diego Oct. 15-17, was reshuffled a bit as the result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to include seminars on crisis management and preparing for a business displacement. In the coming year, Lytton said the organization will continue to press forward on a number of “advocacy issues.” One item at the top of that list, he said, is preserving the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege for corporate in-housers. In October, ACCA filed an amicus curiae brief with the Alabama Supreme Court in Exxon Mobil Corp. v. State of Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. In the brief, ACCA urges that a trial judge and $3.4 billion jury award against Exxon be reversed as a result of the company being forced to produce the legal opinion of an Exxon staff attorney during discovery. “By regulating the in-house lawyer to a limbo status on the all-important issue of privilege, [the judge's] ruling offends basic notions of justice and deprives corporate America of its counsel of choice — the in-house lawyer,” ACCA argued in the brief, which Lytton co-submitted. Lytton said the organization also is not throwing in the towel on the multijurisdictional practice front, despite hesitation by bar groups, including the American Bar Association, to loosen ethics rules banning attorneys from practicing in states where they are not licensed. The earliest the ABA will take up the issue is in mid-2002. This summer, the Connecticut Bar Association also delayed action on a proposal to extend “safe harbors” to attorneys not admitted in the state, providing that their work there stemmed from the representation of client in a jurisdiction where they are licensed. The debate is of particular concern to corporations that retain outside counsel throughout the country. Despite opposition, Lytton said he is confident that ethics rules barring multijurisdictional practice will soon be relaxed in recognition that many MJPs already exist. “The modern-day reality is that it’s very unlikely that someone is practicing in their home state and nowhere else,” he maintained.

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