Family Law...What is a Conflict of Interest?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016
Posted in: Family Law by Kay Rhodenizer, Counsel

Kay Rhodenizer – June 2016

CONFLICT OF INTERESTS and  WHY DO I GET ASKED SO MANY QUESTIONS WHEN I CALL FOR MY FIRST APPOINTMENT?

Nova Scotia lawyers are required by their Professional Code of Conduct to take “all reasonable steps to avoid circumstances likely to create an actual or perceived conflict of interest.”   It is presumed that a lawyer receives confidential client information and breaches duties owed to client by using (or even having the potential to use) that information against a client in any subsequent related matter, unless the former client waives the conflict.

In some cases, even a preliminary inquiry about whether a lawyer can represent you can create a conflict if confidential information is discussed but conflicts can arise in many other ways, sometimes well after a situation where no-one anticipated a future conflict. Some typical family law examples include:

 

It is very frustrating to engage a lawyer and later find out (sometimes well after work has begun) that new counsel must be retained because of a potential conflict so MDW Law asks for preliminary information when responding to requests for appointments so we can check our list of previously represented clients and related parties.

One or more people involved in a current legal matter may now use a different surname than the surname used in past lawyer/client meetings or Court proceedings. Some people have common names that may appear more than once in our conflict list. When calling to ask for representation it is important to give us the full names of all people who may be involved (including past and new partners and past surnames if known) and if you can think of any other situations that might create potential conflicts to discuss them with us.

 

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