Risk Update

Client Selection Considerations & Conflicts — Survey Shows Law Firm Client Selection Screening Stats + Conflicts News

Which Top Law Firms are Turning Down Clients on Ethical Grounds?” —

  • “Law firms have traditionally been reluctant to draw ethical lines in the sand. The profession prides itself on the premise that everyone is entitled to legal representation. But recent events have forced them to start taking an ethical stance where they might not have previously. Now, research by Law.com International reveals just how seriously they are taking it—and why.”
  • “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sped up a debate that was already starting to take place. Most Big Law firms cut ties with Russian clients because they were “not consistent with our values”. Nevertheless, there is strong evidence of law firms acting for clients that have been strongly censured for their involvement in controversies such as environmental disasters, human rights abuses, contraventions of the rule of law, and forced labour.”
  • “But driven by a rising chorus among younger lawyers, an enhanced focus on environmental, social and governance issues, as well as the reputational fallout from acting for certain clients, firms are now increasingly considering other areas where they may want to take an ethical stand, and perhaps even deny counsel. Many have started drawing up more robust ‘ethical’ policies, and, coupled with increasing public scrutiny, this is prompting firms to take a more critical eye to sectors such as gambling and defence, to mandates that could pose a risk to human rights, and child or animal welfare.”
  • “Now, a Law.com International survey of more than 30 major law firms finds that many are declining taking instructions for purely ethical reasons. So what types of work are law firms most likely to turn down, and what sectors are being scrutinised by law firm leaders most closely?”
  • “However, none of the respondents said they are ruling out entire sectors, nor would they automatically refuse work, but instead assess every mandate on a case-by-case basis. Many respondents stated that they have specific committees, boards and teams dedicated to reviewing and accepting responsible business.”
  • “A common understanding among law firms, which are structured in a variety of different ways, is made particularly complex for those with a particularly international network. Dentons highlighted this, claiming that as it has no global headquarters, each jurisdiction has different laws and standards.”

Fox Rothschild Booted From Athlete Startup Case For Conflict” —

  • “A New York federal judge on Tuesday disqualified Fox Rothschild LLP from representing investors in a $1 million fraud lawsuit against a startup, finding that the firm represented the startup’s parent company in a “substantially related” matter and likely had access to relevant privileged information.”
  • “U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield granted a disqualification motion filed by startup SportBLX’s parent company GlassBridge Enterprises, noting that Fox Rothschild has conceded that it represented GlassBridge in negotiations about a pension plan and that the work involved looking into GlassBridge’s assets — including SportBLX. That means Fox Rothschild can’t represent named plaintiff Cypress Holdings III LP, according to the order.”
  • “‘Cypress’s claims are not limited to discrete issues that can be neatly separated from Fox’s prior representation,’ the judge said.”
  • “In its April disqualification bid, GlassBridge said Fox Rothschild represented it ‘before and during the time period at-issue in this litigation on substantially related matters,’ including the company’s directors and officers liability insurance policy. GlassBridge said it paid Fox Rothschild $847,285 in legal fees before the firm ended the representation in early November 2021, two months before Cypress filed its lawsuit, according to a letter filed in Manhattan federal court. The next month, SportBLX founders George Hall and Joseph DePerio asked to join the disqualification bid, telling the court that Fox Rothschild attorneys repeatedly reassured them in emails throughout 2019 that the firm and attorney Marc Gross were not also representing Cypress.”
  • “In Tuesday’s order, Judge Schofield noted that the firm’s representations of its work for GlassBridge weren’t inconsistent with GlassBridge’s description of that work. Still, she rejected the firm’s argument that it didn’t possess any privileged information because it was just a conduit of information, calling that argument ‘extremely conclusory with no supporting details or documents.'”

Technical Conflicts of Interest Are Not the Mayor’s Problem. It’s the Oath.” —

  • “As you know, shortly after Eric Johnson took a job as mayor of Dallas, he took another job as an attorney with the Locke Lord law firm. He said he could do both jobs at the same time, no problem, and that he would keep a sharp eye out for any possible conflicts of interest.”
  • “Judging by yesterday’s City Council briefing, he is doing just that. When the council went into an ‘executive’ closed-door session to hear from the city attorney about litigation matters, Johnson recused himself and did not go into the session because he said the second item on the list of matters to be considered presented him with a conflict of interest.”
  • “The matter in question was a federal lawsuit in which the city is asking a judge to sort out conflicting claims between airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration regarding gates at the city-owned Love Field Airport. In that case, American Airlines is represented by Locke Lord.”
  • “The mayor is a smart guy and a well-trained lawyer, and he will know how to keep himself out of legal conflicts in those specific matters. But public finance also is a very small world with a few key players at the top, and it’s an inherently political world, because, well… public.”
  • “The really consequential conflicts in Johnson’s dual role will not be technical or even legal. They are more likely to involve social and business relationships than law. And it is those conflicts that point to the core question: Whose man is this anyway?”