Risk Update

Rogue Partner Risk — Client Selection, Surprise Presidential PR Pain

Emails Show Biglaw Lawyer Was In Deep With Donald Trump Election Case When Firm Claimed To Have No Idea” —

  • “Cleta Mitchell used to be a partner at Foley & Lardner. She and the firm swiftly parted ways after the Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution secured audio of the former Biglaw attorney participating in a call where Donald Trump seemed to tick all the elements of Georgia’s election fraud statute without discouragement or chiding from the licensed attorneys in the room (including someone only known as Alex that Above the Law ultimately identified as now-former Fox Rothschild attorney Alex Kaufman).”
  • “The next day, Foley & Lardner announced that she was out, which marked a laudably quick resolution in an industry not known for quick turnarounds. The firm’s statement noted that it had decided not to touch the various ‘Big Lie’ litigations with a 10-foot pole back in November and had no knowledge that Mitchell was running around doing the highest-of-stakes lawyering without their knowledge.”
  • “This morning, Carrie Levine from the Center for Public Integrity tweeted this now-released December email. This places Mitchell deep in the case at least by the end of December and, language like ‘we didn’t include… in our lawsuit’ certainly suggests that Mitchell saw herself as involved as early as December 4.”
  • “From the moment this broke, the firm was adamant that it had not been retained in this matter and that Mitchell participated as a private person. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to flip the firm affiliation switch from an ethical or potential liability perspective — a fact that likely played a big role in her departure.”
  • “It would, however, explain why the firm was unable to police the matter. If she’s not submitting the matter for a conflict check and just showing up without clearing it through the proper channels, they really couldn’t know what’s going on.”
  • “At that point, it’s all about trust. Can you really trust your partners not to jeopardize the platform with their own selfish behavior? Whether it’s an attempt to eke out another few bucks in billables by taking on a surprise local counsel gig or actively hiding a matter from the firm by playing it off as private participation doesn’t really matter — it’s about making sure everyone you work with is truly pulling the same direction.”
  • “That’s why quickly addressing this sort of behavior is important, but at some point firms need to have a reckoning about the risk of putting faith in people they don’t unreservedly trust as colleagues. Because if the last few months have taught us anything, it’s that folks who run in these circles aren’t afraid to take reckless actions. And that’s not good for any firm.”