What is a legal conflict of interest?

When looking for an attorney, some California residents prefer one who is friendly and approachable, while others prefer an aggressive, efficient style. You may agree with other clients that professionalism and ethics should be important traits your attorney values, whether he or she is amiable or no-nonsense. It can violate your trust, not to mention your rights, if your attorney’s own interests – whether professional or personal – lead to unprofessional conduct.

A conflict of interest is defined as a situation in which your attorney’s personal judgment or loyalty clashes with his or her duties to you, according to the American Bar Association. Some examples of a conflict of interest might include the following:

  • The opposition is a close friend or family member of your attorney.
  • Your attorney still feels some loyalty to a former client, who is now part of the opposing counsel.
  • Your opposition is a current client of the attorney you are considering.
  • Your attorney’s personal or professional beliefs go against your legal interests.

Your attorney has a duty to recognize a potential conflict of interest and address it, rather than ignore it, to prevent a situation involving legal malpractice. This may include turning you down or letting you go as a client. If your attorney continues to try serving you while at odds with his or her values, ethics or previous loyalties, your own case may suffer. Legal malpractice is almost always a complicated topic; therefore, this information is not meant to replace the advice of a lawyer.