What happens with a conflict of interests?

You've always known exactly which attorney you wanted to work with. After doing research, you thought you had the right one for the job. Unfortunately, your case didn't go as you expected.

You later came to find out that the attorney was friends with the other party's client. You didn't think he should have been working on your case at all if he had an interest in seeing the other party walk away without penalties. It's possible he had a conflict of interests.

What is a conflict of interests?

A conflict of interest occurs when an attorney's judgment about a case and for his or her client is skewed because of his or her loyalty to another party involved in the case. For example, if your attorney is representing you in a case against a teen driver who struck you while texting but you find out that the attorney is the teen's cousin, that could be a conflict of interest and means the attorney should step down from the case.

It would also be a conflict of interest if your attorney represented the prosecution and defense of the same case or if the attorney is in a firm where he or she represents the defense but another partner represents the prosecution. Any time there's a chance for bias or for an attorney to do something against the wishes of the client for his or her own benefit, there's likely a conflict of interests.

Attorneys who realize that they have a conflict of interests should let their clients know as soon as they do. In that case, it's normal for an attorney to pass on a case to another colleague or to a respected firm who can take on the case. It would not be ethical or legal to continue on with this case knowing that the attorney's interests conflict with the client's.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Malpractice," accessed April 06, 2018

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