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A concurrent conflict of interest may amount to malpractice

Sometimes, a lawyer fails in their duty to provide a vigorous representation of a client’s interests. Although this kind of professional lapse is a relatively rare occurrence, the consequences of any single slip could be life-changing for the affected client. 

There are many reasons why a lawyer’s inadequate approach to their professional duties may serve as grounds for a legal malpractice lawsuit. One of the most common ethical violations that may be evidence of malpractice involves a concurrent conflict of interest. 

Concurrent conflicts of interest

The Model Rules of Professional Conduct is a code of ethics that governs the legal profession. Although there are some exceptions to the Code’s broad rulemaking concerning so-called concurrent conflicts of interest, it is quite clear that – unless an exception applies – a lawyer cannot ethically represent a client if one or two specific criteria apply to a potential or current attorney-client relationship. 

First, a concurrent conflict of interest occurs when the representation of one client is “directly adverse” to the lawyer’s representation of another client. For example, if a lawyer is representing your company in a lawsuit and they then provide representation to the party that is suing your company, that would be a conflict of interest.

Second, a concurrent conflict of interest occurs when there is a significant risk that the lawyer will not or cannot provide a rigorous representation of a client’s interests due to their responsibilities to another client, a third party or the lawyer’s own personal interests. 

Next steps

It isn’t always easy to hold an attorney accountable for legal malpractice. However, if a concurrent conflict of interest can be proven successfully, a wronged client may have strong grounds upon which to take action. By understanding what a conflict of interest looks like, clients are better positioned to make informed decisions about their options than they would be otherwise.