You went to court, and your lawyer assured you that you had a strong case. You agreed, and you expected to win.
During the process, though, you felt like things kept slipping out of your control. Your lawyer began taking steps that did not really make sense to you. When you asked questions, you never got straight answers. When you complained, your lawyer told you that you were just reading into things too much.
It was frustrating, and you should have seen the red flags, but you pushed on anyway. After all, this was your first time through the court system, so you chalked your concerns up to not fully understanding the process.
Then you lost the case.
It was inexplicable. Your lawyer did not seem surprised and did not really seem to care, but you felt stunned. You could not see how it was possible to lose, and you suddenly realized that something was wrong. Digging into it a bit deeper, you found out that your lawyer had a conflict of interest.
What is a conflict of interest?
The American Bar Association says that a conflict of interest occurs when a lawyer does not act in the way he or she would be expected to act because of the potential impact to:
- The lawyer's own interests
- The interests of a third party
- The interests of a former client
- The interests of a current client
According to the ABA, it's a problem if the lawyer is "materially and adversely affected" for any of these reasons.
A personal injury example
Perhaps your case centered around a claim that you suffered a serious injury when you slipped and fell in a store. A broken pipe left a wet, slick spot on the floor. No one cleaned it up. No signs marked the spot. Records showed that an employee reported the incident to her boss, and the boss blew it off and said it would dry on its own. That happened 15 minutes before your injury.
Then you find out that your lawyer's spouse is a co-owner of the store. In fact, your lawyer has most of his or her retirement savings invested in the store to help it expand. Times have been tough, financially, and the store risks going under. If you won the case, your lawyer could have lost everything. That's actually why you lost. Your lawyer did not have your own best interests at heart.
It's frustrating when the system lets you down like this, and it makes you question how your rights really hold up. It is important to take a proactive approach and look into all of the options you have to make things right. This may not be over just yet.