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Labor & Employment

ABA Opposes Proposed Labor Rule that Would Force Lawyers to Reveal Client Info and Fees

Posted Sep 22, 2011 9:20 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III is urging the U.S. Department of Labor to reconsider a proposed reporting rule that would require lawyers to reveal sensitive client information.

Currently the Labor Department interprets the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act to exempt lawyers from the law’s “persuader activities” reporting requirements when the lawyers provide legal services directly to employers, but have no direct contact with employees.

Under the proposed rule change, lawyers who provide legal advice to employer clients and who engage in any persuader activities have to file periodic disclosure reports, even if the lawyers have no direct contact with the employees.

In a comment letter (PDF) submitted on Wednesday, Robinson writes that the new interpretation would require lawyers and their employer clients to disclose a substantial amount of confidential client information, including the identity of the client, the general nature of the legal representation and a description of the legal tasks performed. The proposal would also require lawyers to report legal fees paid by their employer clients for labor relations advice or services.

Robinson says the proposal is inconsistent with ABA model ethics rules and “could seriously undermine both the confidential client-lawyer relationship and the employers’ fundamental right to counsel.” He urges the department to retain the current interpretation.

“By expressing concerns over the proposed rule and urging the department to reconsider,” Robinson writes, “the ABA is not taking sides on a union-versus-management dispute, but rather is defending the confidential client-lawyer relationship and urging the department not to impose an unjustified and intrusive burden on lawyers and law firms and their clients.”

The National Federation of Independent Business announced yesterday that it also opposes the rule change because it “creates an ethical dilemma for lawyers” and discourages them from providing labor relations advice.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Proposed Change in Labor Law ‘Advice’ Rule Calls for Law Firms to Reveal Client and Fee Info”

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