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Robert Gellatly has been selected by his
peers as Best Lawyers® 2015 Plaintiff’s
Medical Malpractice Lawyer of the
Year in Seattle. Mr. Gellatly has been
chosen by his peers as one of the Best
Lawyers in America® and Best Lawyers
in Washington State® for many years.
Luvera Law Firm
6700 Columbia Center 701 Fifth Ave
Seattle, WA 98104
206-467-6090 | www.luveralawfirm.com
WASHINGTON STATE INJURY ATTORNEYS
5316 Orchard Street West
Tacoma, WA 98467
tel: (253) 472-6000
www.messinalaw.com toll free: (800) 992-9529
fax: (253) 475-7886
2025 First Avenue, Suite 1130
Seattle, WA 98121
tel: (206) 838-6000
John L. Messina
Stephen L. Bulzomi
John R. Christensen
Jeremy A. Johnston
James W. McCormick
Gemma N. Zanowski
MVA | Government Liability | Foster & Nursing Home Abuse | Product Liability | Traumatic Injuries
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tion — sometimes by disclaiming some
responsibilities. Not a tax expert? Punt
the tax review to another clearly identified individual — the CFO, accountants,
outside counsel, or another expert. To
manage risk to yourself and the client,
never assume responsibility in areas
where you are unable or unlikely to
meet the “prevailing standard of care.”
This sometimes means hiring unbudgeted outside counsel. Push for
more resources if necessary. If problems arise, you’ll find little cover behind the excuse “I was watching the
budget.” When a company lacks critical
experts, document the risks in writing
for the client and clarify all limitations
in the scope of your role regarding
those issues. It’s best not to write too
many CYA memos, but if the sky might
fall absent additional resources, document that for the client.
IDENTIFY THE CLIENT
Every in-house counsel must be able
to identify his or her client(s). Is it a
single operating company? The parent company, too? A foreign operating
subsidiary? Are there other affiliates
that look and act like clients? Establish
in writing which entities you represent
based on what makes sense in terms of
efficiency, competency, and conflicts.
Do the board members, senior officers, other employees, and majority
shareholders understand your role? Or
might some harbor a “subjective belief”
that they, too, are your clients?
Under the case law, the existence of
an attorney-client relationship “turns
largely on the client’s subjective belief
that it exists” (In re McGlothlen, 99
Wn.2d 515, 522, 663 P.2d 1330 (1983)).
If you have doubts about how such uncertainties might haunt you, review
RPC 1. 13(f) and its comment 10, “
Clarifying the Lawyer’s Role.” Then imagine
being sued by a former officer for failing to properly represent him during a
transaction by the organization.
Establish and communicate your
role up front. And never pass up appropriate opportunities to gently remind
officers, directors, shareholders, or fellow employees that your client is the organization, not them, and that you cannot provide them with any legal advice.
In-house counsel should also never
say anything that sounds like legal