July 07, 2011
In an op-ed titled “Too Hot to Handle ,” which appeared in the July 1 American Lawyer, Harvard Law School Professor David B. Wilkins ’80 and Ben W. Heineman, Jr. explore how law firms should evaluate a partner’s wish to represent a controversial client.
“How should big law firms decide whether to approve partners' representation of controversial clients?” they ask. “This is the significant question raised by the dustup between King & Spalding and former solicitor general Paul Clement over Clement's contract to represent the House of Representatives in defending the Defense of Marriage Act. (DOMA places the federal government firmly against recognition of same-sex marriage.) This question facing many general service firms will become increasingly important in our polarized culture: So many controversial cases raise divisive political, policy, and moral issues, and, increasingly, firms may be forced to say where they stand on the political spectrum in choosing clients.”
Read the op-ed here.
Wilkins is the director of the Program on the Legal Profession and vice dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession. Heineman, a senior fellow at the HLS Program on the Legal Profession and the Program on Corporate Governance, was formerly senior vice president–general counsel at General Electric.