View Single Post
Old 05-26-2019, 02:50 PM
Muffin is offline
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Great White North
Posts: 20,674
Question for lawyers practicing in the USA:

Wilma calls you asking you to represent her in a divorce from Fred. You ask her a few questions to determine what the matter involves to help you decide if you should represent her. After hearing her out, including hearing some relevant financial and sensitive personal details, you tell her that you will not represent her.

A few days later, Fred calls up looking for a lawyer to represent him in the divorce from Wilma.

Are you conflicted out from representing Fred because of the conversation you had with Wilma, i.e. do you owe a duty of confidentiality to Wilma despite her not having been your client?

(Up here in Ontario, Canada, usually a lawyer owes a duty of confidentiality to anyone with whom they have a conversation invoking a lawyer's professional knowledge in the seeking advice or assistance on a matter, despite not necessarily having been formally retained or having received payment. Is it like that in USA jurisdictions, or do you have a bright line test that you use, e.g. written retainer agreement or invoice or payment?

Where I practice, this broad confidentiality issue means that for the most part a call with a potential client is usually enough to preclude me from later taking on the other party as a client. I support this requirement, and it works nicely in large urban centres, but the flip side of the coin is that it makes it very difficult for people who reside in smaller communities to get representation, particularly if their community is a fair hike from the nearest urban centre large enough to have lawyers.)
Hour after hour, day after day, we paddled and sang and slept under the hot sun on the northern ocean, wanting never to return.