Although the SEC's recently-adopted directors rules do not break new ground, they do codify existing standards and will likely encourage independent directors to seek independent legal representation, according to industry lawyers.

"I think the rule encourages directors to hire independent counsel and it requires directors to focus on whether the counsel they are using as their own has relationships ... that are inconsistent with independence," said Richard Phillips, a lawyer in the Washington office of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP of Pittsburgh, Pa. "So I think it acts as a stimulus to independent directors to inquire into the independence of their counsel and to hire someone who might be regarded as independent."

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