Brobeck, Pleger & Harrison LLP was a well known law firm in silicon valley during the first Internet boom. They had thousands of startup and public company clients and handled all aspects of their legal needs. Their client list included Cisco. None of that mattered in the end though – the law firm dissolved in 2003 due to financial mismanagement after the downturn.
But now the nightmare could be beginning for Brobeck’s former clients. In a bizarre story, the bankruptcy court handling the Brobeck case, citing the historical value of the records, has given permission to turn over all confidential client documents to the Library of Congress and put on display in a new public archive. The project even has its own website and will have advertisements published in the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle.
The court is sending out notices to former clients, asking them to Opt-In or Out of the process (copy of notice is here). If the client is unreachable, the documents will be included in the new archive. Documents relating to clients who do not opt in will be available in a closed archived only, and the public will have only limited access (see more here).
This is one off the stupidest things I’ve seen in a while. First of all, these documents remain the property of the clients, not the law firm or anyone else. Those rights are being completely ignored by the court. Many of these documents will also contain extremely confidential information of third parties that were not clients to Brobeck and will therefore not be getting notice.
If you were the subject of a personal dispute with a startup represented by Brobeck, you may want to hire an attorney now to protect your rights. Documents relating to employment relationships are supposed to be purged, but given the huge volume of material that has to be sorted through, it is very likely that things will slip through. And I guarantee that journalists will be waiting eagerly to dig through these documents as soon as they possibly can.
This is just absurd. Thanks Tom for the tip.