Bar Counsel Notes: Conflicts/former clients confidences

Does any conflict exist? Attorney A had represented Client 1 (C1) in a divorce in the past; the representation was long ago completed and the file has been closed for quite some time. She now represents Client 2 (C2) in a divorce. Attorney A was surprised to see C1 attending a court hearing involving C2, and was then informed by Cl that she is now the domestic partner of C2's adversary. Cl has now alleged that because Attorney A had been her divorce attorney, she now has a conflict of interest that prohibits her from continuing to represent C2. Does Attorney A have a conflict?

Under M. Bar R. 3.4(b)(1) and 3.4(d)(1) these two legal matters separately involving Attorney A with C1 and C2 are entirely unrelated. There is also no confidential information from C1 that A can or will use to the advantage of C2. It appears from these facts that A's current representation of C2 will not present any opportunity where A will use any confidences or secrets entrusted to her by C1. Therefore, under these circumstances, Attorney A does not have a conflict of interest and may continue to serve as the attorney for C2.

*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.