What is a "conflict of interest" in legal malpractice?

Imagine that your lawyer is representing you in a contentious court battle pertaining to a sexual harassment lawsuit. Millions of dollars are on the line as you have suffered extensive personal injuries, psychological damages, financial damages and career damages as a result of the treatment your employer forced you to endure.

The issue is that you can't seem to get anywhere in your lawsuit. You take the case to trial and it gets thrown out for a mysterious reason you don't understand. Then, you discover that your lawyer's wife is part owner of the company you were suing. This creates a serious conflict of interest that interfered with your lawyer's ability to represent your interests honestly during your legal proceedings.

What's a conflict of interest?

A conflict of interest happens when an attorney's ability to use independent judgment on behalf of his or her client gets affected by his or her loyalty to another person or party. That person or party could be a spouse, a business partner another client or even himself.

Here are some examples of when a conflict of interest in the context of legal representation can arise. Just because these situations are present doesn't definitively mean a conflict of interest has happened, but it could be a cause for concern:

  • When the attorney represents multiple people in the same settlement.
  • When an attorney represents two parties who are on opposite sides in a legal matter, such as the buyer and seller of a property.
  • An attorney is representing a client in a case, and another attorney in the same law firm is representing the defendant.
  • A family member or someone close to the attorney is associated with the opposite side of a legal battle.
  • When the attorney gets confused about who his or her client is.

The last example, above, requires a more in-depth explanation. Attorneys can become confused about who their clients are, for example, if an attorney creates a business, and the business is the client, but the attorney only answers to the sole owner of the business. Nevertheless, the business later incorporates to have multiple owners and the attorney continues to answer to the original owner. Who is the client, the multiple owners and the business as a whole or the original sole owner? Attorneys cannot become confused about who their clients are or it could result in a conflict of interest.

Did your attorney have a conflict of interest while representing you?

If your case was harmed due to legal malpractice related to a conflict of interest, the attorney who committed this legal practice could be liable to compensate you for damages. Legal malpractice cases can be complicated and difficult to pursue, so make sure you fully understand the issues pertaining to your potential lawsuit before you decide to move forward with the matter.

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What is a "conflict of interest" in legal malpractice? | The Viorst Law Offices, P.C.