Represent Me, then Sue Me?

It was only a matter of time before law firms started treating their clients as adversaries. Consider the now fairly standard boilerplate engagement letter provision in which the client consents to be sued by its own lawyer.

It’s never stated quite so directly. The waiver is always soft-pedaled with soothing, somewhat apologetic explanations that all boil down to this: We really aren’t a law firm, but are instead a collection of independent franchisees, and we aren’t gong to let the shortsightedness of one of our dopier “partners” stifle our chance to represent a much more lucrative client against you if the opportunity presents itself.

I’m used to seeing these provisions in the national firms’ engagement letters, but they’re even showing up in the smaller firms’ letters.

Of course I strike these routinely and have never had a firm refuse our business because of it. What’s more interesting is that I never get any push back. No hesitation, no negotiation, no comment. The paragraph just disappears. Which makes me wonder why it’s there in the first place.

How candid will the client be if he knows he could meet his own lawyer across the negotiating table on the next transaction . . . or worse: as opposing counsel in court?

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