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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

    Karen Kelleher

    Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency

    (617) 723-0500

    Robert M. Ruzzo

    Holland & Knight LLP

    (617) 305-2030

  • 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.

    Contact Information

    Carolyn Marie Francisco

    Corwin & Corwin LLP

    (617) 742-3420

    Jeff D. Bernarducci

    Holland & Knight LLP

    (617) 854-1408

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

    Contact Information

    Mark A. Kablack

    M. A. Kablack & Associates, PC

    (508) 366-2900

    Susan M. Kincaid

    Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP

    (617) 526-6577

  • 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

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

    Contact Information

    Ashley A Brooks

    Sullivan & Worcester LLP

    (617) 338-2800

    Kimberly L. Martin-Epstein

    Hackett Feinberg P.C.

    (617) 422-0200

  • 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

    Joseph Callanan

    Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General

    (617) 727-2200

    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.

    Contact Information

    Seth A. Malamut

    STAG Industrial, Inc.

    (617) 574-4777

    Maureen McDonagh

    Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School

    (617) 390-2542

  • 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

    Richard D. Vetstein

    Vetstein Law Group, P.C.

    (508) 620-5352

    Sarah Ricciardelli

    Ricciardelli & Small , LLC

    (617) 242-4100