Conflict of interest is yet another important duty for lawyers to uphold. It covers a range of potential conflicts between the interests of different current clients, ex-clients and current clients, the lawyer and the client, and the judge and the client. The goal of the statutes which protect individuals from conflicts of interests is to ensure that there is no possibility for corruption or external motivating factors which could impact a lawyers ability to practice the law.
There are numerous examples of where a situation which includes a conflict of interest could occur. An easily understood and well-known situation is one in which a client is undertaking legal proceedings against another of their lawyer’s clients, in which case they lawyers would have to excuse themselves from the case. A slightly greyer area would be one in which one of a lawyer’s clients was filing a lawsuit against an ex-client, with some of the details of the case coming under confidentiality rules.
If there is any potential for a conflict of interest, whether you’re the lawyer or the client, the best option is always to look or advise the client to look for other legal representation. This is not because there aren’t instances where in grey areas of the conflict of interest rules, good legal representation can’t be provided, because it can, but that it is best to do so because it avoids any suspicion, which itself can become the story in any legal proceedings, which is definitely something you want to avoid.