What conduct forms a lawyer-client relationship? US v. Williams (8th Cir.)

Yesterday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued an interesting opinion about what conduct forms a lawyer-client relationship. In United States v. Williams, Case No. 11-3437, 2013 WL 3466840 (8th Cir. July 11, 2013), Williams was prosecuted for his role in a marijuana conspiracy. He helped hire an attorney Haddock to represent a co-conspirator, Conway, who was actually cooperating with the government against Williams.

Haddock (and Haddock's client Conway) helped the government locate and prosecute Williams. Williams later challenged his conviction in part by claiming "outrageous government conduct," that the government had intruded into the lawyer-client relationship and turned his lawyer (Haddock) against him. Unfortunately for Williams, he was represented by other counsel, and there was a lot of evidence that Williams had not formed a lawyer-client relationship with Haddock and did not consider Haddock his lawyer.

The Williams decision has lots of interesting discussion about what interactions do and do not result in a lawyer-client relationship. Perhaps the best is:

Williams asked Haddock to, inter alia, (1) smuggle a cell phone and other contraband into the detention center for him in violation of detention center's policy and in furtherance of the marijuana conspiracy; (2) launder money for him; (3) receive money from various members of the marijuana conspiracy for the purpose of laundering; and (4) transport money for him in furtherance of the marijuana conspiracy. None of those activities “pertains to matters within [Haddock's] professional competence” as an attorney, as opposed to a criminal enabler.  

If you are trying to assess whether conduct forms a lawyer-client relationship, it would be wise to consult Williams -- and not have a cooperating witness's lawyer smuggle a cell phone to you.