Bar Counsel Notes: Multiple Representation

Question: Attorney represents Co Personal Representatives (PRs) through a long and laborious estate administration. The two PRs have always agreed on the work necessary to conduct the estate business. More recently, however, they are in stark disagreement over a particular requirement associated with closing out the estate. What should Attorney do? Response: It seems clear that adversity has developed between the two clients, notwithstanding their prior unified interests. While M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.7 previously permitted the multiple representations, now that a conflict has arisen, Attorney can no longer continue to represent these clients. See M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.7 (b)(1)(2). Attorney should hold one last meeting with the clients to advise them that if they remain in disagreement on the crucial issue then Attorney will have to withdraw, resulting in the need for each client to obtain her own attorney. If clients decide that they will return to agreeing on the close out requirements, Attorney can finish the representation, subject to the conditions of M. R. Prof. Conduct 1.7 (b)(1)(2).

*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.