Team of Rivals? Toward a New Model of the Corporate Attorney Client Relationship

Journal Article November 2010

From its founding, University College London has played a key role in defining-and critiquing-the traditional model of the attorney client relationship. In this article, I will argue that this rich history has much to teach us about the evolving relationship between large companies and their primary outside law firms as we ponder the likely consequences of the current financial crisis.

From its founding, University College London (UCL) has played a key role in defining-and critiquing-the traditional model of the attorneyclient relationship. In this article, I will argue that this rich history has much to teach us about the evolving relationship between large companies and their primary outside law firms as we ponder the likely consequences of the current financial crisis. I will do so by challenging the unstated assumption underlying one of the most widely quoted statements in legal ethics, made by one of UCL’s most important founding fathers, Lord Henry Brougham. There is arguably no more quoted, or in the minds of many lawyers beloved, understanding of the duties owed by an advocate to his or her client than Brougham’s legendary speech in defense of Queen Caroline. Speaking on the floor of the House of Lords in 1820, Lord Brougham eloquently stated what many still believe to be the essence of the lawyer’s role: “[A]n advocate, in the discharge of his duty, knows but one person in all the world, and that person is his client. To save that client by all means and expedients, and at all hazards and costs to other persons, and, amongst them, to himself, is his first and only duty; and in performing this duty he must not regard the alarm, the torments, the destruction which he may bring upon others. Separating the duty of a patriot from that of an advocate, he must go on reckless of the consequences, though it should be his unhappy fate to involve his country in confusion.”


David B. Wilkins, Team of Rivals? Toward a New Model of the Corporate Attorney-Client Relationship, 78 Fordham L. Rev. 2067 (2010).

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