Via the WSJ Law Blog, there's this story about a proposed Vioxx settlement plan by which the plaintiffs' lawyers would be required to recommend the settlement process to their clients and if the client doesn't agree, the lawyer must "take steps" to withdraw. The required "steps" are only those permitted by legal ethics rules.
(As you may know, we've had three recent postings here, here, and here about the recent defense verdict in favor of Leeds, Morelli & Brown and the new article by William Simon of Columbia criticizing the settlement procedure and the legal ethicists who opined in favor of all or part of that procedure.)
These cases highlight the tension between (1) the individualized lawyering that clients must receive from their lawyers under the traditional rules, and (2) the collective negotiations that are necessary to make aggregate litigation work. As Stanford Law professor Deborah Rhode pointed out in the WSJ article, in some situations the incentives of the plaintiffs' lawyers can conflict with the individualized needs of the clients: "[in settling cases lawyers need to be sure that the] 'interests of individual plaintiffs aren’t sacrificed for the good of the whole, which not coincidentally serves the interests of attorney.'”