What Constitutes A Conflict Of Interest For Lawyers

I wash watching Two And A Half Men and the mother tells Alan that he should consult with all the best divorce lawyers in LA, because the if Judith tries to hire them, she can’t because it’d be a conflict of interest.

Now that may be true, I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound right.

So the question is, what constitutes a “conflict of interest” in terms of lawyers being unable to represent clients?

I’m not sure, but I was wondering about this too, ever since I saw it on Sopranos. (Tony does this to Carmela when they are separated.)

There must be something to it as I called a lawyer who’s name I was given by a friend and my soon to be ex had already talked to her. She didn’t hire the lawyer, just talked to her. The lawyer even said that she couldn’t take me as her client, but didn’t say why, it wasn’t until I had talked to my wife I found out what happened.

All links are to the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Responsibility. There will be some differences from state to state, and some states may use a different, but similar set of rules, and there may be other rules that also apply to particular situations, but as a starting point:

Rule 1.7 (current clients)

Rule 1.8 (current clients-specific rules)

Rule 1.9 (former clients)

Rule 1.10 (imputed conflicts)

Rule 1.11 (Government lawyers

The rules vary by state. Generally, this would not be a conflict of interest, because most such conflicts involve current or former representation of a client, and a person does not become a client merely by consulting with a lawyer. However, it can be a conflict if the lawyer received harmful information from the prospective client (i.e. revelation of an affair). Model Rule 1.18.

Consulting creates a conflict of interest because you usually give away harmful information during the consultation. If you don’t then it was probably a terrible consultation.