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Dropping the Baton: The Problem With Changing Lawyers

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 30, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Some legal matters are like a relay race.

Clients start out with one lawyer, who passes the baton to the next. It can work if everbody is on the same team.

But if law firms drop the baton along the way, clients can lose. Not only that, it can be really embarrasing -- especially for the attorneys. Consider Team Trump.

Changing Guards

Even before he was President, Donald Trump had an army of lawyers working for him. When he took office, he fired a bunch at the Deparment of Justice.

It's not necessarily the lawyers' fault when a client fires them, but attorneys have to be really careful about how they handle the transition. Miscommunications, privileges and conflicts are just a few of the possible pitfalls.

In Trump's case, more than a few attorneys have dropped the baton. Typically, it was because the law firms and the White House were putting out conflicting messages. But that's no excuse for some faux pas.

Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime fixer/lawyer, may be the poster boy for privilege problems. When the FBI raided his office and turned up tapes of attorney-client conversations, Trump let them have it in multiple tweetstorms.

What kind of lawyer would tape a client? the president famously asked.

Now Cohen is apparently ready to tell prosecutors that Trump colluded with Russians meddling in the 2016 presidential election. That's not just dropping the baton, that's hitting the client over the head with it.

Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani is another kind of animal, or shark if you prefer. That would explain why he couldn't grasp the baton that was handed to him when he became Trump's attorney.

First, he contradicted Trump's prior lawyers about the Russia affair. Then he called Cohen a "scumbag." Now he says Russian collusion is not a crime, and the President says the special prosecutor has a conflict of interest.

Forget about transferring the file to the next attorney; somebody dropped the baton and nobody has picked it up. If this legal matter were a relay race, it was over a long time ago.

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