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IN-HOUSE COUNSEL When a companys interest are the same as those of an individual employee in-house lawyers generally can avoid multiple-representation problems But once there is a conflict of interest -- or a perception of a conflict -- the picture changes dramatically It is important for in-house counsel to know how to spot such conflicts and what steps to take in response Corporate counsel clients normally include the company its board of directors its most senior management the heads of the companys various business divisions its employees and even its former employees All of these clients deserve quality representation in every matter from the most fundamental to the most vexing With this broad range of clients ethical questions can arise Specifically can corporate counsel serve more that one client and if so what constraints exist upon such multiple representation In most instances a corporate lawyer should attempt to represent both the corporation and its employees consistent with his or her ethical obligations It is obviously in any companys interest to present a consistent and unified version of events that give rise to potential liability Under governing ethics rules corporate counsel has one client -- the corporation Whenever conflicting loyalties arise that relationship is paramount and requires the lawyer to cast aside any other clients This bright-line test is muted in actual practice however and can put in-house lawyers into some uncomfortable situations For example they may have to explain to members of senior management that because the managers interest are sufficiently different from the companys the managers need separate legal advice Just as the importance of corporate law departments has increased so too have the problems for corporate attorneys Corporate employees seem ever more aware of their rights as opposed to the companys interests and corporate counsel must be sensitive to these potentially conflicting interests Although predicting the future always is difficult one thing is certain There will be more confusion and difficulty
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