Enter Sandman, Exit Lawyer

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Ok, so not everyone is an opera fan.  Thankfully, we at the Risk Tip enjoy a wide variety of musical tastes.   Unfortunately, that also means that we’ve had a lot of musicians to mourn in recent weeks:  David Bowie.  Natalie Cole.  Glenn Frey.  Dale Griffin (of Mott the Hoople).  Lemmy Kilmaster.   All of these talents are worthy of tribute.

Of course, there are those who make it their life’s work to pay to tribute to musicians.  And we’re not just talking Elvis impersonators.  Some tribute bands are made up of serious musicians who rival the band or performer they seek to emulate.  My favorites though, are the ones that introduce a bit of a twist on the original.  Have you ever wondered how Back in Black would sound sung by women?  Try AC/DShe.  Would you like to hear Like a Virgin sung by a baritone? Then the all-male Mandonna is for you.

Alas, tribute bands rarely get their due.  But one of them came out on top this week.  The Metallica tribute band Sandman (named for the song Enter Sandman) made news after it received a 41 page cease and desist letter from Metallica’s lawyer, threatening legal action over claimed trademark violations.  Fortunately for Sandman, Metallica’s members professed to know nothing of the letter and, as luck would have it, they are fans of Sandman.  They announced on their website that Sandman could throw the letter in the trash.   As the band explained:  “[N]either we nor our management were aware of [the letter] until it surfaced online. [It] turns out that we have a very overzealous attorney who sent this letter without our knowledge.”   Where is the attorney now?  He’s “catching a flight to go permanently ice fishing in Alaska,” said the band.

The erstwhile Metallica lawyer better hope that’s the last of it.  ABA Model Rule 1.2 makes clear that the client, not the lawyer, generally has the authority to make decisions (subject to legal and ethical limitations) regarding the representation.  Whether it’s accepting/making a settlement offer, agreeing on material transaction terms, or sending a cease and desist letter, it’s the client’s call, not the lawyer’s.  And unless you want to end up ice fishing in Alaska — or be subject to discipline or a claim —  it’s always best to document the client’s instruction.  Because if there is a dispute later on, you don’t want to end up like another Metallica song:  Broken, Beat and Scarred.

Heavy metal, like opera, is not for everyone.  But fear not, classical music fans.  This week’s clip features the soothing sounds of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.  And Metallica.  Together.  Enjoy.