What Conflict of Interests May Arise Between an Attorney and a Client?

An attorney sits at their desk signing documents

The Rules of Professional Conduct, govern the profession and ethical responsibilities of lawyers in the State of Florida. One of the main concerns of lawyers, and the governing bodies, are the conflicts of interests that may arise prior to, during, or after the representation of a client. Therefore, if you have been told a conflict of interest has been brought to the attention of your attorney and representation is no longer available, contact an experienced attorney today, to explain such results and the steps we take to avoid such conflicts.

One of the most common and obvious conflicts of interests that may arise is if a lawyer represents two clients who have claims directly adverse to one another. For instance, in a divorce action, a lawyer may not represent both the husband and the wife, as their interests in the proceedings are directly adverse, with one as the Plaintiff and one as the Defendant in the action. A lawyer is required to adhere to a duty of loyalty to their client, prohibiting them from representing any other individual with adverse claims. Further, even if a claim is not directly adverse to another client’s, a conflict may arise if there is a significant risk of material limitation of a lawyer’s independent responsibilities and representation. For instance, again in a divorce proceeding, a husband and wife may agree on all matters of the divorce therefore, not maintaining any adverse claims. However, the representation of both sides may materially limit the lawyer’s ability to competently advise each client of their rights. For example, if a husband has agreed to pay $5000 in alimony to wife, but case law and statutes would not support such an award, the lawyer would need to inform the husband of such, however, he cannot do so without materially limiting his representation of the wife, who seeks that $5000 support. Therefore, a conflict of interest would arise limiting the representation of the clients in the proceeding.

Further, a conflict of interest may arise in a family law situation even before you speak to your attorney. For example, if your spouse sought out advice from an attorney through a consultation on your family law matter, and you then seek out a consult with the same attorney, a conflict of interest will arise. After your spouse consults with an attorney, that attorney would have inevitably obtained personal and confidential information during this consult that would prevent them from representing any individual in an action adverse to them. Therefore, even if your spouse does not hire this specific attorney, you also may be prohibited from hiring them to represent you, due to the existing conflict of interest.

Personal conflict of interests may also arise with the attorney. These conflicts include: the payment of an attorney’s fee by a third party, a business transaction between a client and lawyer, a lawyer’s familial relationship with the opposing attorney, or a personal relationship with the client. These tend to be specific, rare, and obvious in nature to identify and avoid.

Although it is not your responsibility to identify a conflict of interest with your attorney, it is prudent to be aware of such possible roadblocks to your representation. Conflicts of interest can arise in many different scenarios and your lawyer is prepared to properly screen for such conflicts as to avoid any hindrance in your representation.

Speaking to an attorney at our Orlando office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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