A woman is suing a powerful law firm that represented her during her divorce because the firm did not properly handle a conflict of interest between the woman’s case and its commitments to banking giant Morgan Stanley, which was her husband’s employer at the time of the divorce.
According to the legal malpractice lawsuit that the woman recently filed, the firm that represented her in her divorce form a former Morgan Stanley executive was simultaneously retained by the bank for work on a $400 million transaction. This conflict led the firm to preference the bank’s interest over those of the woman’s, causing her to forfeit one of the largest assets at issue in the divorce and to refrain from contacting police when she was a victim of domestic violence.
Typically in a situation like the one presented in this case, law firms can represent two conflicting clients if they obtain informed consent from all affected parties and work to eliminate the possibility of impropriety or unethical behavior in either case. In this situation it seems that the firm displayed a significant preference for the bank’s interests over those of the woman in the divorce case, leading to a substantially different outcome for her in terms of a settlement with her ex-husband.
The situation went beyond simple economic losses from the firms preference for the bank over their other client when the woman’s soon-to-be-ex husband threatened to kill her and her attorneys advised her not to contact police. In addition to being bad legal advice for her divorce, this also put the woman in peril of suffering grave physical injuries or even death, apparently for the benefit of their own profits and the profits of their client.
Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, “Blank Rome sued for malpractice in ex-Morgan Stanley executive’s divorce case,” Casey Sullivan, May 29, 2013.