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Conflict of Interest – What is it? and What can you do about it?

May 17, 2017

Posted in Civil Litigation

Good morning!  Let’s talk a little bit about conflict of interest. Conflict of interest arises in two situations.  One is what we call successive representation.  This occurs when  I represented Bob 2 or 3 years ago and now David comes to my office and wants me to represent him because of issue that he has with Bob.  That’s a conflict of interest because I would be representing a new client suing a former client.  That’s a no‑no.  A court in that situation would determine whether or not attorney learned a secret about Bob and that will aid David in this situation.  This is what we call successive representation.

The other situation is we call multiple representation, where we present two or three or more clients in a same lawsuit.  Client always want to share cost with attorney’s fee, which is understandable, but oftentimes we find that each one has their own interest.  For example, each has a different opinion about the direction of litigation.  One might want to settle, while another wants to move forward with litigation, etc..   In this situation, if the defendant side needs to come up with the settlement, often times the defendants will point the finger at each other as to who is more at fault.  So that’s where the situation becomes sticky.

Now, there are two types of conflict of interest.  One is potential and the other is actual conflict of interest.  Obviously if there’s a actual conflict of interest the attorney cannot represent the client, and if he is currently representing the client with actual conflict then he must withdraw upon the case.  That’s the easy one.

The other type is a potential conflict of interest. We get disclosure in writing that there may be a potential conflict of interest down the road and if the client understands the potential conflict of interest, then oftentimes the attorney will agree to take on the case.  The reason I don’t recommend that you have multiple representation, and something that you need to think about before you hire attorney, is that there’s a lot of secrets you may want to share with your attorneys and you want to maintain attorney client privilege.  If you have too many parties sharing one attorney, it’s hard to maintain that confidence of whatever you share with your attorney will not be shared to the other client.  That’s the most important thing.  So if you have a situation that is very unique and you need to have that confidence in your attorney to retain the information that you provide that might be vital to your case, it is always recommended that you have your own attorney.

I f you have any questions, leave a comment below or private message me.  Again, this article is used to provide general information and not legal advice.  Always consult with your attorney, but you are welcome to leave a comment or private message me so  we can chat about it in further detail.  Bye.