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How to recognize conflicts of interest

Conflicts of interest arise when your attorney represents two clients who have concurrent antagonistic interests. The State Bar of California says that a lawyer must receive written consent from their clients before representing both clients at once.

If you believe you are the victim of legal malpractice, see below to learn more about conflicts of interest. Always consult with a lawyer before making any legal decisions for yourself.

What constitutes a conflict of interest?

When a lawyer litigates against an individual, they cannot represent the defendant even if it is a separate case. In other words, once a lawyer pursues action against a party, they cannot represent the defending party at the same time. Besides litigation, if a lawyer represents a party in negotiations, they may not concurrently represent the other negotiating party in any other matter.

Advising joint ventures

Another conflict of interest occurs when a lawyer’s consultation leads to a lesser outcome for one or both parties. For example, if two partners in a company hire the same lawyer, it is likely a conflict of interest. The lawyer cannot advise on the best course of action for each client without limiting the outcome of the other client. In this case, a lawyer should represent only one client from the same company.

Lawyers have legal obligations to their clients that dictate they must act in the best interest of their clients. If they have multiple clients, the attorney must uphold their professional duty and avoid conflicts of interest. If you suffered significant financial losses from your legal representation, you might have a case to pursue action.