Attorneys have an obligation to avoid situations in which they will have a conflict of interest such as:
- Concurrent representation of clients with adverse interests
- Successive representation of clients with adverse interests
- Conflicts resulting from lawyer’s receipt of confidential information outside attorney-client relationship
- Conflicts resulting from lawyer’s relationships with non-clients
Professional Liability insurance companies, such as ALPS, recommend that law firms have a system for checking for conflicts and that they use the system every time a firm attorney considers taking on a new matter. The insurance companies recommend that at a minimum you check, “names of current and former clients, corporate parents and affiliates of current and former clients, principal officers and directors, fictitious business names, persons who have consulted with your firm, and companies or institutions for whom you or other attorneys in your firm have served or are serving as directors, officers, or trustees.” They also encourage attorneys not to rely on memory as a way of performing a conflicts check by giving discounts to attorneys who use a conflict checking system.
Whether you choose a conflict-checking system that is computerized or on paper, you must keep the list of contacts as up-to-date as possible. If your list is current, then it is just a simple matter of checking a potential client’s information against your list. Using a matter-based contact list which includes clients witnesses, judges, spouses, and other related parties to a matter increases the likelihood that you will spot a conflict and be able to determine how serious the conflict is.