What defines an attorney conflict of interest?

If you’ve hired a lawyer in the past, the odds are that you went through some serious and painful experiences to get you to that point. If the outcome went against you, it’s undoubtedly felt even worse. It’s natural to question if your attorney was up to the task.

Sometimes there may be a question if your attorney did all he or she could do. Maybe there were questionable connections between your attorney and the other side, through either past representation or financial investments.

What is an attorney conflict of interest?

The American Bar Association has a clear definition concerning conflict of interest, boiling down to the idea that there is a conflict if something in the case is likely to influence your attorney’s behavior. That influence is harder to define. It can be obvious or subtle. If something within the case means your attorney won’t do their best to defend you, then they shouldn’t take the case.

Unfortunately, everyone has flaws. They may be acting unethically to promote the other side, greed may play a factor, or maybe your attorney simply didn’t see the conflict.

Four types of conflict

  • Business conflict: if an attorney owns or is invested in business properties connected to the other party
  • Clients with adverse interests: if an attorney is representing another client with adverse interests to your case at the same time as your case
  • Former and present clients: similar to the adverse interests concept above, if a previous case was related to yours there may be a conflict
  • Third party conflict: Sometimes a third party pays a client’s legal fees. When this occurs, the client needs a clear separation from the paying party.

Proving the case against your attorney

Remembering the basic definition of a conflict of interest, a case of legal malpractice comes down to if your attorney was influenced by external factors. You will need to prove that your attorney held an interest with another party and that it shaped their counsel in your case.

A fundamental principle of legal counsel is to always put the client first. If you feel betrayed by your previous representation, remember that there are bad apples in every profession, but the American Bar Association promotes integrity and client service first and foremost. Legal malpractice is a serious allegation and you will want the best defense possible to show how your previous attorney neglected their duty. By scheduling a consultation with a legal malpractice attorney, you can review your case and interview your prospective new counsel.

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