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Do conflicts of interest qualify as legal malpractice?

Lawyers deal with many clients at once. While it is their job to remain loyal to each, yours may work with a client who could jeopardize your case. If your attorney fails to disclose a conflict of interest, it is important to know if their actions meet the threshold of a violation, as well as your options for recourse.

Understanding conflicts of interest

When a lawyer takes your case, they must uphold their duty to independent judgment and client loyalty. Yet, your attorney puts these duties at risk by working with another client who one of you has a professional, personal or financial relationship with. If a potential conflict arises, your lawyer must discuss it with you.

In some instances, your lawyer can take on a case where a conflict may exist. So can their law firm, which may still represent the other client if your attorney doesn’t take their case. Your lawyer or their firm can continue representing a client at odds with your case if:

  • Both you and the other client consent to the lawyer or firm’s representation
  • They are not representing you both in the same case
  • They can provide fair and competent representation in both cases

Dealing with conflicts of interest

If your attorney breaks conflict of interest standards, you may pursue a legal malpractice suit against them. Their repercussions may depend upon how you discovered the conflict. Whether your lawyer revealed it to you or if you found out through a third party could make a difference. Your attorney’s actions may also violate the State Bar of California’s Rules of Professional Conduct. If they do, they could face consequences from the bar, too.

Conflicts of interest can cause unfair outcomes that nobody deserves. If your former lawyer failed to disclose theirs, a legal malpractice attorney can help you hold them accountable.