Understanding legal conflicts of interest

When you hire an attorney in California, you probably feel confident that he or she will prioritize your needs, and yours alone. Regrettably, however, this is not always the case, as many legal malpractice cases arise from attorneys who take on clients despite having existing conflicts of interest. At the Lange Law Corporation, we have a firm understanding of what constitutes a legal conflict of interest, and we have assisted many clients who hired lawyers and later found out they were breaking ethical boundaries.

Per Law Street Media, a conflict of interest is what happens when an attorney agrees to represent you, despite having competing or conflicting goals for some reason or another. For example, an attorney cannot represent you in a lawsuit against a company if he or she holds stock in that company. Similarly, an attorney may not represent you in a personal injury case against a store, if his or her wife owns or works in that store.

The American Bar Association outlines what constitutes a legal conflict of interest in Rule 1.7 of its ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. In summary, the rule asserts that attorneys may not represent one client if that client’s interests would conflict with another’s, or if there is a notable risk that the lawyer’s representation and responsibilities toward one client would hinder his or her ability to serve another.

There are, however, some exceptions Rule 1.7. For example, an attorney may be able to represent clients if they are not facing other in the same lawsuit, if both parties provide written consent and if the attorney can offer representation that is “competent,” “diligent” and not otherwise illegal. More about conflicts of interest and legal malpractice is available on our web page.