A Law Firm Known For Getting Results

  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Legal Malpractice
  4.  » 3 times a lawyer may have an actionable conflict of interest

3 times a lawyer may have an actionable conflict of interest

The representation provided by a lawyer can have a major impact on someone’s finances and quality of life. For example, an attorney who gives bad advice during a divorce might convince someone to accept a settlement offer that deprives them of tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of marital property. Generally speaking, lawyers have a fiduciary duty to put the best interests of their clients first, but not all lawyers live up to that standard. Some attorneys allow their personal relationships or financial needs to outweigh what might be best for their clients.

Current standards in the legal profession require that attorneys disclose minor conflicts of interest and hand over cases and clients to other lawyers when there is a significant conflict of interest. Unfortunately, not all lawyers comply with those standards. They might represent a client when they know there is a conflict of interest. The following are some examples of scenarios in which that decision could lead to a legal malpractice lawsuit later.

When they have a relationship with the other party in a conflict

Perhaps a lawyer has previously represented the defendant but agrees to file a personal injury lawsuit against them. Maybe they belonged to the same student organizations as someone’s spouse in college, which could impact the caliber of representation provided during divorce proceedings. If a lawyer fails to disclose a pre-existing personal or professional relationship with the other party involved in a legal matter, that might raise questions about the caliber of representation that they offered their clients.

When they have a financial interest in the issue

Perhaps a lawyer invested in a business, only to take on a client who intends to sue the company for a defective product. That lawyer may not offer the best representation possible because the client’s success could lead to negative financial consequences for the attorney. Perhaps a lawyer advised someone to invest in a business owned by someone they know because they might receive a kickback. In cases where a lawyer may have had a financial incentive to provide poor advice or inadequate representation, that could affect how they handle a client’s case.

When the situation hits too close to home

Some conflicts of interest do not involve professional relationships or financial matters. Instead, there could be personal matters that compromise the representation that the lawyer provides. For example, if an attorney was previously the victim of a carjacking, they may not offer the best defense representation to someone accused of a similar crime. Both incidents that affect the lawyer and situations that impact their close loved ones might lead to a conflict of interest that undermines the professional performance of the attorney.

Provided that disappointed clients can prove a conflict of interest and the financial impact a poor legal outcome has had on their lives, they might have grounds for a legal malpractice lawsuit. Holding a lawyer accountable for substandard representation can compensate affected clients while simultaneously creating penalties for the unprofessional attorney at issue.