Bar Counsel Notes: Conflict of Interest: Current Clients

Under the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, what should an attorney do in the following scenario? Attorney recently provided initial consultation to Wife regarding her proposed divorce. Wife has now requested that her attorney (or another attorney in her firm) represent both her and her husband in their uncontested divorce because "they each agree on everything". Is it proper for an attorney to engage in such multiple representation, if both parties provide informed written consent?

No, never. Such simultaneous representation in contested litigation is specifically prohibited by M.R. Prof. Conduct 1.7(c)(2). Under that Rule, this form of prohibited conflict of interest representation may never be consented to by the parties.

*Disclaimer: The Informal Ethics Advisory Notes from Bar Counsel are intended as outreach by the office of Bar Counsel for the use and benefit of the Maine bar. These scenarios are drawn from actual telephone calls received by the attorneys in the office of Bar Counsel in the course of providing informal advice on the Code of Professional Responsibility, known as Bar Counsel's "Ethics Hotline." The particular advice in each case is limited with reference to the particular factual situation related by the inquiring attorney who must be inquiring about his or her own conduct or the conduct of a member of his or her firm. We do not provide any advice to one attorney about the conduct of another attorney unless they are members of the same law firm. In the telephone opinions, we usually explore and discuss additional factual variables. However, I have attempted to pare down these factual scenarios to make the email newsletter more readable and useful in a general sense. Obviously, that creates the risk that slight variations on the facts, to a learned reader, may give rise to a different analysis and conclusion.