Skip to main content

The Lawyer's Lawyer

Lawyers Helping Lawyers Avoid the Perils of Professional Discipline

Driving into a Conflict?

Q. An engaged couple wants to retain me in an accident case. The boyfriend drove through an intersection when a truck ran a red light and crashed into them. May I represent both?

A. My definitive answer: It depends.

If the truck driver was entirely at fault, without any negligence on the boyfriend's part, there would not be any conflict in taking both claims.

But the facts aren't always clear. Even if the couple places all the blame on the trucker, he may dispute liability. If he claims that the boyfriend had a red light instead, there's certainly a chance that the boyfriend may be at fault and be liable for his fiancée's injuries. In these circumstances, representing both would present a conflict of interest.

Where, as here, the passenger may raise a claim against her own driver, the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another. Even if she refuses to file such a claim, there's still a significant risk that a lawyer representing both claimants would be limited in promoting the interests of each under Rule of Professional Conduct 1.7. Indeed, if the truck driver seeks contribution from the boyfriend for the girlfriend's injuries, you may then be required to withdraw from the case altogether and leave both claimants in the lurch.

In theory, you could have each client waive this conflict by obtaining "informed consent" in writing. But if independent counsel would advise the passenger to assert claims against her driver, a waiver of the conflict won't be worth the paper it is written on. If the blameless passenger later loses, you may face some tough questions as to whether you improperly induced her to sign a waiver.

To avoid this problem, many experienced plaintiff's lawyers will either refer the driver to other counsel, or will represent the driver first. If successful in establishing the truck driver's liability to the boyfriend, the lawyer may then represent his fiancée without fear that a subsequent conflict may arise.

Meriting Leniency
Pursuing Happiness

Related Posts

Attorney Grievance defense attorney specializes in defending lawyers in disciplinary proceedings before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission and the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility involving professional misconduct, legal ethics, disbarment, suspensions of law licenses, petitions for disciplinary action, reprimands and sanctions for unethical conduct. If you receive a letter from Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless, Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox, or from any attorney disciplinary board in Maryland or the District of Columbia, retain experienced attorneys with expertise in lawyer discipline and breach of ethics cases to avoid sanctions for professional misconduct. We help lawyers avoid disbarment, suspension, reprimands, censure and informal admonitions by drafting responses to client grievances and ethical complaints; representing lawyers in peer reviews, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments before the BPR and the Court of Appeals; filing petitions to reinstate an attorney's license to practice law; conducting law firm ethical compliance audits; and drafting legal ethics opinions to protect lawyers from ethics charges. In many cases, disciplinary proceedings may be dismissed, dismissed with a warning, or result in a conditional diversion agreement with Bar Counsel to rectify misconduct. Lawyers may need help in managing their law firm attorney escrow IOLTA trust account and complying with attorney trust accounting rules to avoid charges of ethical misconduct. Do not represent yourself in responding to an attorney grievance, law firm client complaint, or other allegation of ethical impropriety. Attorney grievance defense counsel may help you comply with legal ethics rules, avoid sanctions like suspension or disbarment, and avoid future attorney grievances.


By The Lawyer's Lawyers | Kramer & Connolly and Irwin R. Kramer who are responsible for the content of this informational website.   This website is designed for lawyers faced with attorney grievances. As cases do differ, past performance does not guarantee future results.