Law Tips: Conflict of Interest Checkup

When is it necessary to construct a Chinese Wall?  Can you provide competent and diligent representation for a particular prospective client?  Reviewing conflict-of-interest issues on a regular basis is perhaps prudent. Wouldn’t you agree?  Kerrie Weinzapfel, firm administrator at Bamberger, Foreman, Oswald & Hahn, Evansville, provides a “Conflict Checks” session during the ICLEF  “Managing a Law Firm” seminar.  Today on Law Tips I am appreciative of the opportunity to share her reminders on this subject.

Conflict Checks
Before accepting a project from a prospective client, attorneys must confirm that no conflict of interest exists.  A conflict can arise from the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client, a third party or  from the lawyer’s own interests.

A conflict of interest exists if:

  1. The representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or
  2. There is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.

However, if a conflict of interest exists under rules 1 and 2 above, a lawyer may represent a client if:

  1. The lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;
  2. The representation is not prohibited by law;
  3. The representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal; and
  4. Each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.

Lawyers must adopt procedures to determine whether a conflict exists that are appropriate for the size of the firm and the type of firm and practice areas. If a conflict exists before representation begins, the representation must be declined unless informed consent from each party is obtained.  If the conflict arises after representation has begun, the lawyer must withdraw, unless informed consent is obtained from each party.

It may be necessary to use a Chinese Wall to safeguard information. A Chinese Wall is an information barrier within a firm, used to withhold access to documents, electronic files and information. Physical files may need to be stored in a locked cabinet to prevent access.

Thanks again to Kerrie Weinzapfel for this Conflicts Check.  Has she raised any questions in your mind or alerted you to possible future concerns?  If you wish to see the full discussion of this  law practice management issue plus a plentiful selection of related topics, the “Managing a Law Firm” video replay is scheduled in several places throughout the state in the next two months and is also available as an Online/On Demand video – Click Here for more information.


About our Law Tips faculty member:
As Firm Administrator for Bamberger, Foreman, Oswald & Hahn, LLP, Evansville, Indiana,  Kerrie Weinzapfel manages the strategic hiring of business professionals for all Bamberger offices. Prior to joining Bamberger, Foreman, Oswald & Hahn, LLP, she spent 12 years of her career in public accounting with a regional CPA firm. Kerrie is responsible for all professional development initiatives and oversees the accounting, IT, marketing, and human resources departments for the Bamberger law firm. Her experience includes professional recruitment, employee training and benefits, legal administration and compensation programs, business development, and public relations.

About our Law Tips blogger:
Nancy Hurley, Law Tips blogger, has long-standing connections with Indiana lawyers. She was formerly a member of the ISBA and IBF staffs for over 30 years. Nancy’s latest lifestyle venture is with ICLEF. We are utilizing her exceptional writing and interviewing skills while exploring how her Indiana-lawyer background fits with ICLEF’s needs. When she isn’t ferreting out new topics for Law Tips, her work can be found in our Speaker Spotlight blogs, postings on the ICLEF Facebook page, Twittering and other places her legal experience lends itself.

Thank you for reading Law Tips. You may subscribe to this weekly blog through the RSS link at the top of this page. You are encouraged to comment below or contact Nancy.   She enjoys hearing from readers and welcomes your input as she continues to sift through the treasure trove of knowledge of our CLE faculty to share with you on Law Tips.

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN


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