out-of-state legal newspapers have telephoned recently regarding the propriety of lawyers
taking a piece of the action. Do I think that it is appropriate? You bet.
I urged the
callers to look at Californias booming economy, the impact of our IPOs on the nations
financial picture, the amazing new products that obtain patents, and lawyers going
in-house with stock options. I suggested that but for lawyers belief in innovation
and willingness to incur risk, our economy might still be in the doldrums of the late
1980s. This is actual evidence of the propriety. Really, do you think those
proverbial kids, starting thriving businesses in garages, could talk a
language federal regulators could understand? Speak to your own young adults (whose
comments sometimes cause you to seriously think switched at birth) to find the
hidden answer to this question.
(Avoiding Interests Adverse to a Client) is a guide on how to ethically take stock or a
percentage of the action. It requires strict and literal compliance, but it is definitely
doable. Caution, prudence and absence of greed are the keys to successful lawyer-client
mandates that the circumstances are substantively fair and reasonable, and
communicated in writing in a manner that the client should reasonably understand. Client
state of mind is important, sophisticated or naive. The client must be advised in writing
to consult with independent counsel and be given an opportunity to do so. Finally, the
client must consent in writing to the terms of the transaction or acquisition.
The rule is applied broadly and does not require a current attorney-client relationship.
The client need
not actually seek independent counsel, but the advice in writing is critical. It may be
prudent for you personally to pay someone else (not a partner or associate) to bless the
deal. Anecdotally, if the deal goes south, the finger will usually be pointed at the
lawyer, who will be deemed to be holding the bag.
especially occur if there is mutual and concurrent ownership, coupled with the lawyers
ability to summarily extinguish the clients interest. This is sometimes generically
known as greed and is characterized by excessive power in the lawyers hands.
as it is the cli-ents cause of action, even if you have an interest, it is still the
clients business. Clients do not have to follow your sage wisdom, even if your
judgment is sophisticated and obviously correct because you are the lawyer. At the turn of
the century (the other century, the 20th), lawyers were encouraged to go into business
with their clients. Justice Brandeis almost did not get confirmed, due to 17 or 18 cases
where he had just too much control to be the lawyer for the deal.
Be prudent, and
only take a tiny, de minimis slice, much less than 10 percent. Check to see if your errors
and omissions coverage permits this, and please, be nice.
Diane Karpman can be reached at
310/887-3900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.