I Think I Hired a Lawyer With a Conflict of Interest
All lawyers have a fiduciary duty to avoid conflicts of interest and to provide unwavering advocacy on their client’s behalf — however, some lawyers violate their fiduciary duty by placing their own interests above their client’s. Where does this leave the client?
If you’re thinking, “I might have hired a lawyer with a conflict of interest. What do I do now?” The legal malpractice attorneys in Houston from Sears Crawford are here to guide you through what classifies as a legal conflict of interest and the steps you can take if you believe your lawyer has committed legal malpractice.
Here’s everything you need to know about conflict of interest between lawyers and clients.
What would be considered a conflict of interest with a lawyer?
In order to better understand how a conflict of interest might affect your relationship with your lawyer, it is important to learn about the different types of conflict of interest. Knowing what to look for will help you determine whether a conflict of interest exists in your case.
The types of conflict of interest can be broken down into three main categories: actual, potential, and apparent.
Actual conflict of interest exists when a lawyer is representing two clients with incompatible interests, or when a lawyer’s duties are divided and therefore the lawyer cannot give the client the lawyer’s full and undivided interest. For example, if a lawyer is representing a criminal defendant and the victim in a civil suit, there would be an actual conflict of interest. This conflict of interest generally cannot be waived by the clients without the consent of both parties.
Potential conflict of interest exists when a lawyer agrees to represent one or more clients in a case where a potential conflict might arise in the future, such as when an attorney represents both the driver and passenger in an automobile accident. While the conflict of interest might not exist at the time of representation, and in fact may never exist, it is possible that the conflict could develop during the course of the representation if it becomes necessary for the passenger to take the position that the driver’s negligence caused his/her injuries. If this occurs, then the lawyer can no longer represent both the driver and the passenger as the “potential conflict” has now become an actual conflict.
Apparent conflict of interest exists when it would appear to a reasonable person that the lawyer has a conflict of interest, even if he or she does not. An example of this would be if a lawyer represented a defendant in a criminal case and then offered to represent the victim in a civil suit against the same defendant. While there may not be an actual conflict of interest, the appearance of a conflict would be enough to create an apparent conflict of interest.
Conflicts of interest do not always look like a lawyer representing two sides of the same case. An attorney’s conflict of interest can be monetary, familial, or based on allegiance to a former client — often they are concealed, and it can be hard to know for sure until you’ve sought the advice of an experienced legal malpractice attorney.
Are there any exceptions to attorney conflict of interest?
There are a few exceptions to conflict of interest between lawyers and clients. Attorneys are allowed to represent multiple clients in some circumstances if the attorney will truly be able to represent each client zealously and without adversely affecting the other client’s interests.
Additionally, attorneys are allowed to represent multiple clients with conflicting interests if the attorney gets each client’s informed consent confirmed in writing. The written consent must explain the nature of the conflict and the risks involved in having the lawyer represent both clients.
What should you do if you think your lawyer has a conflict of interest?
If you believe that your attorney might indeed have a conflict of interest. Can you sue a lawyer for conflict of interest?
You can sue your lawyer for a conflict of interest if the conflict of interest has resulted in harm or has somehow damaged you.
If you believe that your lawyer may have a conflict of interest, the first step is to ask him or her about it directly. If your lawyer refuses to discuss the issue or denies that a conflict exists, you may want to consider getting a second opinion from another lawyer before taking any legal action or firing a lawyer in Texas.
In the event that you do decide to confront your lawyer about a potential conflict, be sure to do so in writing. This will allow you to document the conversation and will help protect your interests if you later decide to file a legal malpractice lawsuit.
Continue reading: What is legal malpractice?
If you believe your attorney is serving their own interests over yours, call Sears Crawford for help.
If you believe your lawyer committed legal malpractice by representing you while having a conflict of interest, and that you suffered damages because of it, you should contact a legal malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
The sooner you speak with an attorney from Sears Crawford, the better. We will be able to review your case and determine whether you have a valid claim. If you do have a claim, our legal malpractice lawyers will help you file a lawsuit and protect your interests throughout the legal process. Our clients come first, and we carry legal malpractice insurance for your reassurance.
Don’t let a conflict of interest ruin your relationship with your lawyer. If you think a conflict of interest may be an issue in your case, call Ross Sears, the legal malpractice attorney at Sears Crawford today. We sue lawyers and we can help you sue yours.
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