To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel :
Black letter law vs. real world advice. Reading legal ethics vs. living legal ethics. Recent events have shown me how important these two themes are to in-house lawyers.
A recent article discussed how important it was for lawyers to provide real world, informed advice to a client - as opposed to simply reciting black letter law. I took that to heart based on a recent experience in dealing with a probate matter. As personal representative of a family member's estate, I needed legal advice on how to deal with administration of the estate. The first response I received from the law firm was the black letter law of Florida. But the answer did little to guide my steps. Only after further communications with the estate lawyer was I able to piece together my best course of action.
As in-house lawyers work closely with their clients on a day-to-day basis and are immersed in the business of their clients, we cannot help but learn about our client's operations and its legal concerns. We should not squander that relationship. We should be providing informed, real world advice to our clients and continually demonstrating our value to the organization that hired us.
I also had the opportunity to join a panel speaking on the topic of ethics at the Association of Corporate Counsel's Corporate Counsel University this last April. This presentation was part of the new-to-in-house track at the program. I was surprised by the high level of audience participation both during the presentation and in the hallway conversations afterwards. Based on what the audience members have experienced so far in their new positions, these attorneys were struggling with how to apply what they know to be the ethics (and privilege) rules against the real world situations they now face. They wanted to share, to discuss, and to move a step closer to being comfortable in their practice.
Whether it's NJCCA's programs and events (substantive or social networking), the ACC conferences and programs, or the ACC online material, there are resources available to help guide you in your practice. Let us know your concerns and we will help as best we can.
Lee A. Braem