In the Headlines
January 21, 2022

'Irretrievable' Client Schisms Not Always How They Appear


Legal Profession Team Co-Chair Trisha Rich was quoted in a Law360 article about "irretrievable" client schisms in the legal world. While most often evoked when a client stops paying, it's also used as a linguistic shield for lawyers and clients' dirty laundry. In some instances, lawyers evoke the phrase — or the equally fuzzy "irreconcilable differences" — to describe a schism that is, in reality, less irreconcilable and more like "highly inconvenient."

"It's really just the best shorthand we've come up with as a profession to signal to the judge that something's not right," said Ms. Rich. 

Ms. Rich added that, in an era of better-educated clients and more bar grievances, the profession as a whole is more cautious about protecting any information that might be seen as detrimental to the client's interests.

When lawyers do need to disclose more about what's gone wrong with a client, "I urge them to do it in the courtroom, rather than in a pleading, because of the confidentiality concerns. It's more ephemeral in open court."

And even when the "irretrievable" language isn't technically on point, "there may still be circumstances going on where saying anything more than that is still giving up too much," she continued. "So I'm pretty comfortable with a little bit of fiction."

READ: 'Irretrievable' Client Schisms Not Always How They Appear (subscription required)

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