There is the long running lawyer joke that attorneys are vampires. However, the story of Dracula features an attorney who was retained by a creature of the night for leasing property in England. In the 1931 film, Renfield travels to Transylvania and quickly falls under Dracula’s spell. Renfield assists the vampire in traveling to England aboard a sailing ship, alerting Dracula when the sun had set for the Count’s nightly feeding on sailors. For a different take on the story closer to the book, check out the Fictional Podcast has a great three part series telling the story that follows Jonathan Harker on his ill-fated trip to Transylvania.
Here is a question worthy of a bar exam, what should a lawyer do if a vampire seeks their legal representation?
Client Discrimination Based on Status as a Vampire
Attorneys have a duty “[n]ever to reject, for any consideration personal to himself or herself, the cause of the defenseless or the oppressed.” Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6068(h). Moreover, lawyers “shall not unlawfully discriminate or knowingly permit unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age or disability in accepting or terminating representation of any client.” California Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 2-400(B)(2).
It would be wrong to reject representing a vampire on the sole basis the client is a vampire. Lawyers cannot discriminate based on a disability (such as being undead, bursting into fame if exposed to sunlight, and requiring human blood based on dietary restrictions), or national origin (such as being Transylvanian). These factors are alone not a basis for rejecting someone as a client and could be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit.
Lawyer Can’t Advise Breaking the Law
Renfield (or Harker in the book) did not know Dracula’s intentions besides his real property interests in England. This is important, because attorneys are not supposed to advise clients on violating laws. California Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3-210. If the attorney knew that Dracula intended to travel to England in order to murder and feed on an unsuspecting population who did not decorate their homes with Crucifixes and Communion wafers, the attorney did not knowingly advocate violating the laws against murder. If the attorney knew Dracula’s intent, then there is a serious ethical breach.
Attorney-client Privilege Doesn’t Apply to Enabling Crimes
Attorneys have a duty to maintain their client’s confidential information. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6068(e)(1). However, an attorney may, but is not legally required, to reveal confidential information if the attorney believes it is necessary to prevent criminal activity that can result in death or substantial bodily harm. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6068(e)(2). Moreover, the attorney-client privilege does not apply if a lawyer’s services were sought to enable or aid anyone to commit a crime. Cal Evid Code § 956(a).
Dracula’s attorney would have to maintain his client’s confidential information that went into securing the real property agreements, but if the lawyer knew of Dracula’s intent to kill, then the lawyer has options for informing law enforcement. The attorney could inform the police of Dracula’s intent to kill people for their blood, which could include the location of Dracula’s properties. However, there is no legal requirement that the attorney has to inform law enforcement, which would make the lawyer a true monster if he decided to not take any action to stop his client from feeding on others.
If the attorney offered Dracula legal advice on how to murder, locations around London that would be prime hunting grounds, that advice would not be protected by the attorney-client privilege. At that point the lawyer has transformed from attorney to henchman, and is assisting with committing crimes.