Tip of the Month

Tip for August 2010

Know the Risks in Representing Multiple Clients

Representing more than one client in a single matter presents significant professional responsibility issues. Failure to identify and address these issues at the outset may result in a legal malpractice action, disciplinary grievance, forfeiture of fees or any combination of these.

The principle issue os one of conflict of interest. Most lawyers know that they are prohibited from representing two clients with directly adverse interests in the same matter. The ethics rules, however, do not limit conflicts to situations of present, direct adversity, but also prohibit representation of one client when the representation will (or "may," in some jurisdictions) adversely affect the relationship with the other client.

When a lawyer represents more than one party in a legal matter, it is not uncommon for one client to perceive that the lawyer favored another client at his or her expense.

At the outset of the representation, it is helpful to determine whether the multiple representation will or may adversely affect the interests of any client.  If so, follow the requirements of the ethics rules of the applicable jurisdiction.