If you listen to brainy law professors who have been studying big injury cases, you will learn that lawyers no longer owe their clients a duty of loyalty. They say this approvingly, even enthusiastically.
The idea that lawyers must represent one client at a time, give independent advice, follow instructions and, in general, act with fierce and single-minded loyalty is, these professors say, a lovely idea but an outmoded one. It is something out of the Age of Chivalry, or at least the 20th century.
“Speaking of individualized notions of lawyer loyalty is sort of like the mindset of the French military in 1940,” said Richard A. Nagareda, a law professor at Vanderbilt and the author of a recent book called “Mass Torts in a World of Settlement.”
Professor Nagareda was speaking at a forum at the American Enterprise Institute this month, and he was explaining why a proposed $4.85 billion settlement of lawsuits concerning the painkiller Vioxx represents progress, even though the deal puts extraordinary pressure on the lawyer-client relationship.