Engaging with legal representation in Alaska can often be a complex and stressful process. This comes as little surprise to attorneys themselves, yet some may not quite comprehend the impact felt by clients. It is likely for this very reason why those attorneys that seek us here at Clapp, Peterson, Tiemessen, and Thorness LLC out for assistance are often so surprised when facing accusations of legal malpractice.
The fact of the matter is that many people carry certain expectations into their legal cases, and if and when those are not met, they may look for someone to blame. Their attorneys are typically an easy target, and when cases involve both multiple lawyers and clients, claims of a conflict of interest are often thrown around.
Defining a conflict of interest
Understanding the formal definition of a conflict of interest may help an attorney defend themselves from such an accusation. According to the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, such a conflict exists only when an attorney engages in the representation with a client where such representation might adversely affect the representation of another client. It may also exist in cases where an attorney’s ability to represent one or more clients is materially limited by responsibilities to any of the following parties or pursuits:
- Another client
- A former client
- A third party
- A personal interest
Exceptions to typical conflicts of interest
Yet even in cases where it may appear that a conflict of interest exists, the ABA’s professional standards allow for certain exceptions. These include scenarios where the attorney believes themselves capable of providing competent representation to interconnected parties, the representation is not prohibited by law and it does not involve a claim between the parties represented, and each client affected consents to the representation in writing.