Bar Counsel Notes: Conflict of Interest
Attorney X represents client W in a family matter. The adverse party, H (client's former husband), is now the current husband of Y, a former law partner of X. X has not seen or dealt with Y in any context for many years. X and Y were only law partners for about 3 months. Attorney knows nothing about that current couple, H and Y. Is this a prohibitive conflict of interests under MRPC Rule 1.7?
Answer: No, this would not appear to be a conflict. Under these facts, the only possible problem would appear to be a personal interest conflict under Rule 1.7(a)(2), but attorney X does not have any personal interest since she has had no contact --- social or professional --- with Attorney Y. Disclosure to the client of these facts is necessary to allow her to make a knowing retention decision, but there is no actual prohibitive conflict of interest under Rule 1.7.
*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.