Bar Counsel Notes: Duties to Former Clients

Attorney's firm recently represented a local business "B" in its collection action against client "H" and his siblings. H has now called and requested that Attorney represent him in defense of an unrelated criminal action. May Attorney represent H?

Not if B is still a current client of Attorney's law firm. If so, B would probably still have adversity to H such that it seems unlikely that Attorney could meet the requirements of M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.7(b)(1). Accordingly, under those facts, Attorney should decline to represent H in that criminal case. In the alternative, if Attorney is certain that B is now a former client of the firm, an analysis of M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.9 would appear to allow Attorney's commencement of representation of H in his new criminal matter that is unrelated to Attorney's firm's earlier now terminated representation of B.

*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.