NUMBER 251 1927

Question. The Canons of the American Bar Association contain many admonitions which appear to indicate that the position of counsel, and especially of trial counsel, should be one in which he can exercise independent judgment as advisor and as advocate: (e.g., Canons 6, 8, 15, 16. 19, 24, 30, 31, 32).

There is, however, a widely extended practice which, it would seem, naturally tends to rob the advocate and counsel of the independence of judgment which leaves him free to follow these precepts, and that is the employment by a single client of the services of a lawyer, to the exclusion of all other clients and upon a stipulated salary, to appear as advocate in all of the client’s litigation, thus confusing the relation of attorney and client, with the relation of master and servant. The temptation to remit to the client the direction of the attorney’s and advocate’s professional activities seems obvious; the absence of other clients enhances the necessity of submitting to such domination.

Your Committee has hitherto in the case of collection agencies, trade organizations, and other intermediaries, counseled the lawyer against such arrangements by him as enable those who are not empowered to exercise the office of attorney to assume direction and control over the lawyer.

In the opinion of the Committee, is the practice above mentioned to be discouraged or disapproved, whereby a single employer engages a lawyer upon a salary, to appear as advocate in all litigation for or against the employer, the lawyer accepting no other client, and being thus dependent upon the employer’s sole pleasure for his livelihood, while exercising his profession as advocate in his employer’s behalf?


Answer. While the Committee is of the opinion that the lawyer should not permit his independence or conduct to be improperly influenced by his client, it does not consider that the acceptance of the employment mentioned in the question would ordinarily lead to such result, It, therefore, cannot say that the practice is to be discouraged upon any ground of professional ethics.