“[Crosby and I] were in love with each other and in possession of something magical.” Graham Nash, 1990.
“I don’t want anything to do with Crosby at all . . . I’m done. F**k you.” Graham Nash, March 2016.
I could tolerate last year’s war of words between David Crosby and Neil Young. And sure, there has always been tension with that hothead (but genius) Stills. But for Crosby Stills & Nash fans, a Crosby/Nash rift is a surprising and devastating turn of events. After 47 years together, having weathered drug addictions, prison stints and liver transplants, I, for one, was unprepared for the split. So much for “Love the One You’re With.”
Lawyers can’t afford to be caught off guard when their clients break with one another. Whether it’s a husband and wife, business partners, or a corporation and its employee, we are often asked to represent multiple clients in a single matter. At the outset of the representation, everyone is seemingly on the same page and happy. As the matter evolves though, interests can diverge and once agreeable clients can descend into the darkness while the seemingly helpless lawyer watches.
So what do you do when one client wants copies of your communications with the other? Or when one client stops paying? Or when one wants you to fire the other and continue to represent him or her? You don’t have to cry; these questions can be really easy to answer — if you have a fully executed engagement letter with appropriate disclosures and consents. Specifically:
Everybody I Love You: Have the clients confirm that their interests are aligned.
50/50: Be clear on the responsibility for payment of fees. Are they split evenly or is one paying for all?
Yours and Mine: Explain the disadvantages of joint representation, including that there is no privilege as between or among joint clients. In other words, if we learn something from one client that we think the other needs to know, we will disclose the information to the other.
See The Changes: Be clear on what happens if a conflict develops. Are we going to withdraw from the representation? Or will we withdraw from representing one (e.g., a corporate officer), but continue representing the other (e.g., the company)?
Turn Back the Pages: Make sure the letter is executed by each of the clients.
This way, if and when your clients go CSN on you, you’ll be able to carry on.
And, for what it’s worth, anytime CSN are ready to get back together, they can count me in.