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What is a conflict of interest?

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2020 | Business Law |

Legal professionals must adhere to a code of ethics to ensure their clients receive the best support possible. Avoiding conflicts of interest is a crucial aspect of providing dependable legal advice, no matter what kind of case you are handling.

Being able to identify potential problems as they arise can prevent serious claims against you and your firm by clients who feel they have been deprived of quality assistance. Many conflicts of interest fall into one of two categories, as explained here.

Direct Adverseness

The quality of the attorney-client relationship can have a direct impact on the success of a case. Clients must feel comfortable with their legal team and must be assured that their attorney is acting in their best interest. That means attorneys must be extremely careful about representing other clients who are counter to an existing client’s well-being. This is true even when the new case has nothing to do with the existing client’s litigation.

For example, imagine you are representing a client in a divorce case. Now consider that the client’s ex-spouse consults with you for help in a completely separate case, such as a business law dispute with a former partner. The first client is likely to feel betrayed by your actions and may even question whether you have their best interests at heart. If you wish to represent both clients without incident, you will need to provide informed consent to the first client and receive their approval before moving forward with the second client.

Material Limitation

You must be free to provide your clients with the possible legal guidance you can afford. This guidance must include all possible legal solutions and remedies to ensure the person you are representing has the best chance at a successful outcome.

Material limitations often occur when an attorney attempts to represent a group of clients all invested in the same undertaking. In this instance, an attorney helping multiple business clients negotiate a contract will be limited in the advice given to each because such advice could be construed as a conflict of interest when it comes to other clients. In this situation, you are better off providing legal guidance to a single client, while the others seek out their own counsel on the matter.