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Brief Fact Summary. Respondent claims that the results of an investigation carried out by their counsel should be protected by attorney-client privilege.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. When an attorney is retained to represent a corporation, the attorney-client and work product privileges may extend to every employee in that corporation.
An uncertain privilege, or one which purports to be certain but results in widely varying applications by the courts, is little better than no privilege at all.View Full Point of Law
Issue. May attorney-client privilege protect corporate counsel’s communications to non-management employees?
Held. Yes. Corporate counsel represent the corporation, not merely the “control group” of officers and directors. Any employee capable of making a decision that would substantially effect the corporation’s legal position must be granted this privilege so that counsel may properly assess the corporation’s liabilities. Lower court reversed.
Discussion. If attorneys are to be retained to represent the interests of an entire corporation, it stands to reason that the corporation’s employees should enjoy the full benefits of attorney-client privilege in their communications with counsel. Any other holding would have significantly chilled corporate counsel’s ability to properly investigate possible liabilities and therefore impaired their effectiveness.