One of the most fertile areas of legal malpractice is conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest may occur for very simple and obvious reasons or it may occur for more subtle and less obvious reasons.
Simple and Obvious. Needless to say, an attorney should not be representing a husband and a wife in the same divorce proceeding or in the same child custody dispute. Nor should he represent the buyer and the seller in a real estate deal. A lawyer should not simultaneously represent two businesses that are suing each other. These are no-brainers: It is a conflict of interest for any attorney to undertake representation of opposing interests in the same legal matter. Doing so can lead to a malpractice claim.
More subtle; Less Obvious. In some cases, however, an attorney may be swept into, or lulled into, the belief that two clients are working together, or that they have shared goals and objectives, and therefore, no conflict of interest exists. Thus, for example, a real estate developer searching for financing and an investor searching for new enterprises may each consult the lawyer, who introduces them, forges a new relationship between them and drafts all of the necessary contracts and documents.
Such a relationship may seem, at first, to be perfectly successful. Yet, let’s assume that the investment subsequently goes bad, and the investor now retains a new lawyer who is asking a series of questions: Why hasn’t there been an independent appraisal? Where is the accounting for the development costs for the project into which the investment funds were paid? Why was no security pledged for the bridge loan which the investor tendered?
In this case, a well-intentioned lawyer, who may have earnestly helped two clients do business together, was nevertheless negligent in not picking sides. By carelessly trying to work for both parties at the same time, the attorney failed to work effectively and efficiently for either one of them. He may well be liable to the investor for his legal malpractice.
The Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick targets those attorneys who commit legal malpractice in its various forms and permutations. If you have been a victim of a mishandled legal claim, please feel free to contact our office for a free evaluation of your case at 1-866-337-2900.