Attorneys and law firms rightfully focus a significant amount of resources on risk management practices to avoid costly malpractice claims, but there are other lesser-known conflicts that deserve some attention too.
Casual Legal Advice
Those outside the legal profession are often fuzzy about exactly constitutes an attorney-client relationship or how one is created. Attorneys are frequently asked for legal advice from friends, relatives, and business associates who approach them outside the office and engage them in conversation about a legal issue. Attorneys need to be careful not to dish out any legal advice during these conversations, even when pressed to do so, as advice given without proper documentation can create potential conflict issues later, particularly if the advice is taken but does not result in the desired results.
When a single representation involves more than one client, but appears that all the potential clients are a single person or legal entity. For purposes of conflict-of-interest resolution, each separate capacity and entity may be a separate client with interests distinct from the others. In these circumstances, the lawyer and law firm might need to employ multiple procedures to avoid unidentified or unresolved conflicts. The best way to avoid misunderstanding regarding the identity of the client is to specify exactly who the client is and identify any related individuals or entities that the lawyer is not representing in the retainer agreement.
While many conflicts can be resolved by client consent, some cannot be waived. For example, an attorney cannot typically represent both the plaintiff and the defendant in the same matter, or both the buyer and the seller in the same real estate transaction. Generally speaking, a lawyer cannot represent a client whose interests would be adverse or contrary to the interests of another client of the lawyer or law firm. In almost all cases, if a lawyer has a conflict of interest, every other attorney in the firm has the same conflict of interest, although there are some limited exceptions.
For more information about nontraditional legal conflicts that can spell trouble for attorneys, contact USI Affinity today.
We trust that the above article was useful and thought-provoking; however, please note that it is intended as a general guide and opinion only, not a complete analysis of the issues addressed, and readers should always seek specific legal guidance on particular matters.
For more information on LPL coverage generally, contact USI Affinity today.