Michael Clayton: Attorney Client Privilege Essay

1484 words - 6 pages

It is a plot line that seemed to come straight out of a John Grisham novel. After all it had all the major elements: a conspiracy, a corrupt corporation, but most importantly a lawyer examining his inner conscience only to decide to break with the status quo and expose his corporate masters. In fact, one could say that the film Michael Clayton (2007), was a modern day John Grisham film that never was. In all certainty, Michael Clayton is a typical Hollywood movie with a typical Hollywood ending where good defeats evil and where truth prevails over obfuscation.That does not mean that it should be dismissed so readily however. The film Michael Clayton still raises many of the ethical questions within the legal profession. Namely, the film explores the concept of the Attorney Client Privilege, and through its plot and rich storyline, questions the very notion of it. However, it is easy to forget that the film is a pure work of fiction; and although it does a adequate job of pointing out the disadvantages of the Attorney Client Privilege, its assertion that the privilege should be eroded when the attorney knows that his or her client is lying, is just as phantasmal as the scenes are which are in the film.
“I’m not a miracle worker; I’m a janitor,” remarks Michael Clayton in one of the opening scenes of the film. An apt phrase because Clayton has been dispatched to rein in a fellow associate named Arthur Edens who is suffering from a manic breakdown—stripping off his clothes during the middle of a deposition and running around naked in the parking lot. Visiting Edens in jail after the incident, the sighs of the breakdown showed no sighs of subsiding. In the middle of a conversation with Clayton, Edens goes on a tirade, eventually asking, “Is this me? Am I this flesh organism that has been sent to eat sleep, and defend this horrific chain of carcinogenic molecules. Is that my destiny”? To Clayton, Edens behavior is quickly deemed erratic—a symptom due to the fact that Edens has gone off his medication. However, Edens is meant to be the hero of the film. He strips his clothes, not because he is psychiatric patient gone mad, but because he wants to shed himself of the “evil”, he views, that has consumed him. “6 years I’ve absorbed this poison,” Edens wails, “a hundred motions, five changes of venue, 85,000 documents of discovery...and what have I got? I spent 12 percent of my life defending the reputation of deadly wheat killer.” As Patrick Radden Keefe, a writer for Slate Magazine, incisively points out, law firms ” [do not] employ people so much as consume them” (Par. 7).
Edens guilt of defending U/North, the company that produced the pesticide, is only compounded when he discovers an internal memorandum confirming U/North’s guilt. Edens proceeds to make hundreds of copies of the memorandum in hopes of disseminating them to the public. Edens even goes as far as secreting meeting with the plaintiffs of the lawsuit in hopes of making their side of the...

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