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Clients Benefit When Lawyers Consult In-House Ethics Counsel So Says Boston Bar Amicus Brief

Arguing that Massachusetts will benefit from stating  a clear rule applying the attorney-client privilege when a lawyer consults with in-house ethics counsel, the Boston Bar Association (BBA) today filed an amicus brief in RFF Family Partnership v. Burns & Levinson.

"The issue presented by this appeal is important for all of the BBA's members who practice their profession in law firms, large or small, and for their clients," argues the brief. "The BBA therefore supports the adoption by this Court of a clear rule providing that the attorney-client privilege applies when a lawyer consults with in-house ethics counsel."

In the case in question, the Superior Court (Business Session) has already ruled that the attorney-client privilege does exist with respect to a lawyer consulting in-house counsel. That ruling has been challenged by plaintiff RFF Family Partnership. The BBA takes no position on the merits of the claim underlying the appeal.

Were the SJC to state such a clear rule, it would provide a model for state high courts throughout the nation. Providing a bird's eye view into the practice of law firms in the 21st century -- where urgent questions demand quick answers -- the brief makes the case that "clients benefit when their lawyers are encouraged to consult freely with in-house ethics counsel in a privileged communication."

The BBA brief argues that the attorney-client privilege should apply to such consultations on the following conditions:

1. In-house counsel has been formally or informally designated to provide advice to the law firm, along with the counsel’s other work;
2. In-house counsel does not work on the particular client matter that presents an issue; and
3. The time spent by in-house counsel on advising the law firm is absorbed by the law firm and is not billed or charged to any client.

The BBA's amicus brief was drafted by legal ethics expert Robert M. Buchanan, Jr., a partner at Choate Hall & Stewart.

Real Estate Committees

  • Affordable Housing Committee
    The purpose of this committee is to educate the local bar concerning new initiatives in financing and developing affordable housing.

    Contact Information

    Terrence M. McNeil

    Trinity Financial

    (617) 720-8400

    Karen Kelleher

    Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency

    (617) 723-0500

  • Construction Law Committee
    This committee addresses all aspects of construction law, including contract documents and alternative project delivery systems; construction litigation, arbitration and ADR; public contract law and other legal issues of interest to practitioners who handle matters relating to construction.

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    Rhian M.J. Cull

    Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP

    (617) 378-4120

    Michael P. Sams

    Kenney & Sams, P.C.

    (508) 490-8500

  • Land Use and Development Committee
    This committee focuses on issues related to land use and development in the context of real estate transactions.

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    Johanna W. Schneider

    Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster

    (617) 951-1162

    Mark A. Kablack

    M. A. Kablack & Associates, PC

    (508) 366-2900

  • Leasing Committee
    This committee studies issues affecting this area of practice and plans educational programs led by experienced leasing lawyers and other senior real estate practitioners.

    Contact Information

    Timothy J. Famulare

    Burns & Levinson LLP

    (617) 345-3000

    John N. Affuso

    Massachusetts Port Authority

    (617) 568-3144

  • Real Estate Finance Committee
    This committee is concerned with all aspects of financing real estate transactions.

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    Amanda S. Eckhoff

    Robinson & Cole LLP-Boston

    (617) 557-5988

  • Real Estate Public Policy Committee
    The BBA is very active in legislative and regulatory changes. Real estate attorneys are often asked to lend their expertise.

    Contact Information

    John J. Goldrosen

    Kopelman and Paige, P.C.

    (617) 556-0007

    Kathleen E Connolly

    Murtha Cullina LLP

    (617) 457-4000

  • Real Estate Public Service Committee
    This committee oversees the BBA’s Lawyer for the Day in Boston Housing Court. The Real Estate Section has provided educational programs both membership-wide and to the public on issues related to landlord and tenant law and the Housing Court.

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    Seth A. Malamut

    STAG Industrial, Inc.

    (617) 574-4777

    Katy E. Ward

    Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C.

    (617) 348-1850

  • Steering Committee
    The leadership committee of the Section organizes programs and discusses policy. To inquire about opportunities, please contact the Section Co-Chairs.
  • Title & Conveyancing Committee
    This committee covers topics such as mechanic's liens, survey matters and affirmative coverage; sophisticated title insurance endorsements; lis pendens; real estate litigation; title insurance claims; bankruptcy and creditors' rights; the land registration system; offers to purchase real estate; purchase and sale agreements; hazardous substances; forms of ownership; mortgages, foreclosures, easements and restrictions; and broker and lender relationships.

    Contact Information

    Sophie Stein

    Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company

    Richard D. Vetstein

    Vetstein Law Group, P.C.

    (508) 620-5352