Understanding conflict of interest

At the Lange Law Corporation in California, we realize that the relationship between you and your attorney is almost sacred. You expect your attorney to represent you ethically, skillfully and vigorously, and you also expect him or her to keep anything you say confidential and do nothing adverse to your interests.

Most attorneys live up to their ethical responsibilities as set forth in the Rules of Professional Responsibility. Sometimes, however, your attorney may veer from these rules, particularly those applying to conflict of interest. Per the American Bar Association, such conflicts fall into the following four categories:

  1. A personal conflict between your lawyer’s interests and yours
  2. A conflict between your lawyer’s representation of you and someone else at the same time
  3. A conflict between your lawyer’s representation of you and someone (s)he formerly represented
  4. A conflict your lawyer has between you and a third party

Personal conflicts

An attorney cannot represent you if such representation poses a risk that his or her financial, personal, business or other interests might limit his or her ability to fully advocate for you. For instance, you and your attorney should not operate a business together, nor should (s)he have any ownership or security interest in your business.

The only time (s)he can advance the costs of your case or have a financial stake in its outcome is when (s)he and you have a contingency fee arrangement where both his or her fee and the amount of any advanced costs come out of the settlement (s)he obtains for you.

Simultaneous representation

Your attorney may not take on any new client while representing you if that person is someone on the other side of your case or has any other interest(s) directly adverse to yours. Likewise (s)he cannot become your attorney if (s)he already represents someone to whom your interests are adverse.

Serial representation

These rules apply to your attorney’s former clients as well as current ones. For instance, (s)he cannot represent you in your post-divorce custody modification action if (s)he represented your ex-spouse in the original divorce.

Third party conflicts

Your attorney cannot let someone else pay your legal fees except under the following circumstances:

  • You consent to such payment.
  • The person does not interfere with your case or your attorney-client relationship.
  • Your attorney does not disclose confidential information to the person.

Any of the above conflict of interest prohibitions are waivable if you give your written informed consent and if your attorney reasonably believes that they will not impact his or her professional judgment and diligent representation of you.

For additional information, please visit this page on our website.