Bar Counsel Notes: Conflicts of Interest

Question:

Attorney represented son in a potential workers' compensation case that was never formally initiated as the company was owned by the father of the son. Ultimately, the father was the adverse party, but supportive of the son. Fast-forward two years, that Attorney has a prospective client who also wants to bring a workers' compensation case against that same company. Is there a conflict?

Answer:

No. As long as the son was the client of Attorney, and the father was not a client and had no reason to believe that he had any attorney/client relationship with Attorney, there would be no conflict in Attorney’s representing another claimant against the father's company. The son is the former client; this proceeding is not the same or substantially related matter, and not even adverse to the son's claim. There is no conflict. See MRPC 1.9.

*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.