A lawyer will act as your proxy or agent. They can show up to court when you aren’t even there to stand in your place. They can sign a contract on your behalf and can access much of your private information. Typically, people trust that their lawyers will act in their best interests.
After all, lawyers have a fiduciary duty to their clients. They have a legal obligation to put the client’s best interests first when making any decisions related to that client’s representation or when providing them with guidance.
Unfortunately, some lawyers will not act in the best interests of their clients and will instead seek to profit more than once from their attorney-client relationship. Some lawyers will offer subpart representation or give their clients bad advice because of a conflict of interest. If you discovered what you believe is a conflict of interest after your lawyer either lost your case in court or gave you advice that turned out to be unfavorable, the situation might involve actionable legal malpractice.
There are many kinds of conflicts of interest
Some conflicts of interest are very obvious and simple to understand. If your lawyer invested heavily in a business that you want to bring a lawsuit against, their investment could be at risk if your lawsuit were successful. Obviously, that would compromise how much effort they put into arguing your case.
On the other hand, perhaps they do not have a personal relationship with the other party involved but there is a secondary relationship. Their spouse or sibling might be an executive at the business that illegally terminated you, or they may have previously represented the party bringing the lawsuit against you.
Personal relationships, financial investments and someone’s professional history are all factors that could undermine the standard of representation clients receive from a lawyer.
How attorneys should handle such conflicts
The ethics standards for attorneys are clear about conflict-of-interest scenarios. Attorneys should be transparent about such conflicts as soon as they become aware of them, which might include telling an individual that they cannot represent them in court.
Unfortunately, not every attorney wants to turn down a paying client, and there are those who would take on a case that includes a conflict of interest intentionally to protect themselves, their investment or someone they know. When you have proof of a conflict of interest and questions about the standard of representation provided in your case, you may have grounds to hold the lawyer that represented you accountable.
Pursuing a legal malpractice claim could result in compensation for you and possibly also consequences for the attorney involved.