Conflicts of Interest: How to Spot and Avoid Them
Unraveling the details of a case takes dedication and persistence to learn the truth and accurately communicate it. After all, that’s why your clients hire you in the first place! However, there are some gray areas that make transparency complicated. Some of the biggest areas of concern are conflicts of interest.
Conflicts of interest are a definite no-no when it comes to representing your clients, but they can be tricky to spot. And while you personally may not be impacted, it is important to keep your firm in mind before proceeding with a potential conflict of interest.
Perform a Conflict Check:
Always double-check for potential conflicts before digging into a case. Sometimes clients may have relationships with other clients that you or your firm have represented. Other times, conflict may not be evident until later on in a case. Either way, keep an open mind and stay alert of possible things that could compromise the outcome of a case.
Implementing a system that provides facts and information that will help you to discern whether a conflict exists can help you to be better informed before you proceed. These are some conflict instances that you need to remain mindful about:
- Connections between current clients and prospective clients
- Links between former clients and prospective clients
- Complications that relate to the lawyer’s/firm’s best interests
Keep Lines of Communication Open:
It is important to remain constantly vigilant that an issue could arise at any time. If it does, it’s essential not to ignore it, but to face it head on. Be open with clients about any existing or potential conflict that arises as you go proceed with. Finally, be prepared to discontinue representation of a client if circumstances surrounding their case become too conflicted.
What to Do When Conflicts of Interest Crop Up:
When a conflict of interest is uncovered, you have two options for proceeding:
- Discontinue working with your client. The most obvious solution is to cease working with the client in question as soon as a conflict is discovered. Withdrawal of representation can be as simple as sending a non-engagement letter to a potential client or may be more involved, depending on which point you’re at in your case.
- Continue client representation. Depending on the level of conflict, you may be able to keep working with your client by having them sign a waiver. This will allow them to acknowledge the conflict and permit you to continue work on the case.
Staying aware of conflicts of interest is crucial to successful client relationships and representation. Protect yourself and your firm by doing your due diligence to research clients and communicating with them throughout the legal process.