An attorney has an ethical obligation to his or her client to represent his or her interests, and zealously defend their legal rights. Part of the many obligations that comes with practicing law are limits on potential conflicts of interests. Your attorney should be focused on you only, not taking your case or working on it in a way that helps others or in a way that improperly enriches him or herself.
There are several rules of professional conduct for Pennsylvania lawyers that cover conflict of interests and potential conflicts of interests, what they might be, how they should be handled and exceptions to the rules. There are literally pages and pages of rules and explanations as to what they mean, so you can see that conflicts of interests are a big issue for those practicing law.
● An attorney shouldn't take a case where the attorney has multiple clients whose interests may oppose each other. The same rule provides exceptions, including when the representation isn't prohibited by law and the clients aren't making claims against each other in the same case and each client gives informed consent to the representation.
● An attorney shouldn't be involved in a business or contractual relationship with a client, with exceptions.
● A lawyer can't put his own interests ahead of the client's interests. An example is the prohibition against making an agreement with the client that could limit the client's future ability to sue for malpractice unless the client is independently represented by another attorney when making the agreement.
● A lawyer is barred from using information relating to the representation of a client to the client's detriment "unless the client gives informed consent, except as permitted or required by these rules." Why a client would agree to that, your guess is as good as ours.
● The rules also cover avoiding conflicts of interests with former clients. A lawyer who had represented a client in a matter "shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person's interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent."
● There are also potential conflicts of interests if lawyers working for the same law firm are representing parties with opposing interests in a case.
If your attorney may have violated his or her duty to avoid conflicts of interest and you believe you suffered as a result, you may have a claim for legal malpractice against the attorney. Applicable rules can be convoluted and interpreted in different ways in a given situation. So it's a good idea to contact us so we can talk about your case, how malpractice law may apply and your best options to protect your rights.