Lawyers are increasingly meeting individual clients and corporate-client employees in restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. And this phenomenon is not limited to solo practitioners who use the local Starbucks as an office. Firm-based lawyers more often interview a client’s employee or consultant over lunch rather than in their offices. And in-house lawyers discuss confidential information with corporate employees in the company café.
A key component to the corporate attorney–client privilege is that lawyer–client conversations occur in a confidential setting. In a recent Oregon case, a lawyer escaped privilege waiver for a meeting held in a restaurant, but only after having to prove that the tables around him were empty and that no one overhead the conversation. While this was a privilege win, it should give lawyers pause about their client-meeting locations. MacFarlane v. Fivespice, LLC, 2017 WL 1758052 (D. Ore. May 4, 2017). You may read this decision here.
A former server at Café Murrayhill in Beaverton, Oregon filed a retaliation suit against the café. The café’s lawyer met with the executive chef—at the restaurant. Seems reasonable enough, but the meeting occurred in a restaurant booth and not in a private meeting room.