I’m sure that many of you read with great interest that Kim Kardashian recently hired a lawyer to assert a claim against an L.A. photographer. According to the lawyer, the photographer improperly took pictures of Kim (which he then tried to sell) from a helicopter hovering over her compound.
No doubt, the Kardashian family’s various antics and public pursuits provide much fodder for a Risk Tip. But I want to focus not on Kardashian hijinks, but on the obligations of the lawyer (the Kardashian Kounsel, if you will). Sure, everyone likes to lump Khloe, Kendall, Kourtney, Kim and even Kanye into one large Kardashian bucket. But does that mean that, by taking on Kim as a client, the lawyer is also assuming the legal representation of every other member of the extended Kardashian family?
Seems silly, right? Yet this is an issue that many of us face on a regular basis. Ok, maybe not with a Kardashian, but corporate clients sometimes want their lawyers to represent not only a single entity, but also their parents, subsidiaries and other members of their corporate family. Sometimes they won’t even identify all of the affiliates. (I’m still waiting to hear how anyone can run a conflicts check on an unnamed party.)
Over-identifying clients can cause issues for law firms– it can create obligations to entities for that you don’t actually represent, and it can unnecessarily subject you to conflicts. Of course, there may be business reasons to accommodate a client’s request. Either way, it’s important — for everyone involved — to take the right steps at the outset of the engagement to identify the client or clients. You should have an engagement letter that clearly defines the client or clients and expressly states whether or not affiliates are included. And if you do undertake affiliate representations, make sure you run a conflicts check on each and every entity.
And here’s another tip to avoid unnecessary risk, courtesy of the Kardashians: if you’re planning to throw a party at Kourtney’s house, you may want to check with her first.