Law Firm Internal Investigations: Ethical Issues and the Attorney-Client Privilege

Maintaining Confidentiality and Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will provide practitioners with an analysis of the scope of the attorney-client privilege in the course of law firm internal investigations. The panel will discuss minimizing potential conflicts of interest and legal ethics issues that may arise during an internal investigation.


Law firms, just as any business, face lawsuits and claims of wrongdoing by clients, as well as by employees and others on a regular basis.

Law firms must conduct internal investigations into such claims. Unlike other businesses, such investigations will trigger unique issues of attorney-client and work product privilege, as well as legal ethics concerns.

Just as lawyers advise their clients, law firms must also prepare for the possibility of being a defendant in litigation. Every firm must have a well-structured internal review program, including proactive measures to ensure that investigations protect both client and attorney confidentiality.

Listen as our authoritative panel of legal specialists examines the attorney-client privilege in the context of law firm internal investigations, potential conflicts of interest, and attorney ethical issues that may arise.



  1. Attorney-client privilege
    1. Scope of privilege
    2. Intra-firm dissemination of privileged information
    3. Discovery
    4. Current client or fiduciary exception
    5. Court and state bar treatment
  2. Ethical considerations
    1. Conflicts of interest
    2. Fiduciary duty to client
  3. Best practices to maintain confidentiality
    1. Appoint regular general counsel or ethics counsel
    2. Investigate or act on professional liability or responsibility issues when they arise
    3. Firm counsel treat investigation as client matter
    4. Firm counsel must safeguard attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine
    5. No discussion of investigation with aggrieved client
    6. Consider withdrawal from client representation (at least on particular matter)


The panel will review these and other key questions:

  • What protections are available to law firms as they conduct internal investigations?
  • What are the common challenges asserted by aggrieved clients to access information gathered in the firm's internal investigation?
  • What ethical issues should law firms consider when undertaking an internal investigation?
  • What steps should firms take to protect the confidentiality of the information resulting from the internal investigation?

Following the speaker presentations, you'll have an opportunity to get answers to your specific questions during the interactive Q&A.


John K. Villa
John K. Villa

Williams & Connolly

He focuses his practice in legal malpractice defense and corporate and financial services-related litigation (civil...  |  Read More

Thomas B. Mason
Thomas B. Mason

Partner, Chair of Legal Profession and Ethics Practice
Zuckerman Spaeder

He focuses his practice in the areas of professional responsibility and legal ethics. He advises and represents...  |  Read More

Lawrence Spiegel
Lawrence Spiegel

Partner and General Counsel
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom

He has more than two decades of experience advising individuals and corporations in complex criminal and civil...  |  Read More

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