Recognized at common law, the attorney-client privilege is often invoked for the purpose of fostering honest and fruitful communication between attorneys and their clients. In St. Simons Waterfront, LLC v. Hunter, Maclean, Exley & Dunn, P C., the Georgia Supreme Court ruled on an issue regarding the reach of this privilege that had never before been addressed in Georgia courts. St. Simons Waterfront, LLC (SSW) asked the court to determine the applicability of the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine to communication between attorneys at Hunter, Maclean, Exley & Dunn, P.C. (Hunter Maclean) and its in-house general counsel. The court held that the same rules and analysis considered in determining the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine for the normative attorney-client relationship apply when addressing their applicability in the law-firm in-house counsel setting. Accordingly, the court held that the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct do not govern the attorney-client privilege or the work-product doctrine in this unique relationship and that no fiduciary exception can trump these privileges in the state of Georgia. Only a day prior to this decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued a similar holding regarding this intra-firm communication issue. The Georgia Supreme Court's ruling has caught the attention of the press and the American Bar Association, providing opinions on the court's decisions and speculating what will result from such a ruling. This approach for analyzing a seldom-addressed issue could prove most favorable for firms handling adversarial clients. The only trouble could be determining at what point the attorney-client relationship is established for the purpose of the privilege.
Garcia, Nicholas J.
"Can We Keep a Secret?: The Attorney-Client Privilege and Work-Product Doctrine in the Internal Law-Firm Setting-St. Simons Waterfront, LLC v. Hunter, Maclean, Exley & Dunn, PC.,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 65:
2, Article 8.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol65/iss2/8