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ATTORNEYS CAN BRING WRONGFUL DISCHARGE CLAIMS

In-house attorneys in Washington are now expressly permitted to file lawsuits for wrongful discharge against former clients.  This right is limited in scope. Any such lawsuit can only be filed “without violence of the integrity of the attorney-client relationship.”  See, Karstetter v. King Cty. Corr. Guild, 193 Wn.2d 672, 682 (2019).  This is a significant development and specifically distinguishes between in-house attorneys and those in private practice.  Karstetter establishes an exception under RPC 1.16 for in-house attorneys, such as those employed directly by corporations.  Or, as it was the fact in Karstetter, the attorney owned a law firm, but worked primarily for one client, the King County Corrections Officers Guild.  The meaning of the phrase “violence to the integrity of the attorney-client relationship” is not entirely clear.  Presumably, this indicates that a lawsuit brought under this exception can only be established by evidence that is subject to the attorney-client privilege.