Responsibility to Former Clients
Some controversy has arisen over actions taken by David Boies’s law firm in relation to the firm’s former client, the New York Times. The rules of professional conduct generally limit our responsibility to former clients. The Boies firm in New York periodically did some work for the New York Times. The firm then apparently represented Harvey Weinstein, who wanted the firm’s help to prevent an accuser from getting more press from the Times. As a former client, the law firm generally had a duty to not take on this matter for Weinstein if confidences from its former matter with the Times might be relevant absent a waiver. There is no indication that was the case. Plus, there was a waiver (albeit a general nonspecific before-the-fact waiver, which is less persuasive). But in the court of public opinion, there are different standards. So what may be okay under our rules, may not be worth pursuing. BOTTOM LINE: Although the duty to a former client is limited, it still exists and should be evaluated. Waivers can work, but they should be specific for best results. Here, Boies may believe this to be a win as an advertisement for the work they do.