Conflict of Interest Systems - Articles

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Posted by: Barry Kolar on May 15, 2014

It is essential (and absolutely required by most malpractice insurance carriers) that you institute a conflict of interest system.  While you may initially remember the name of every client and opposing party in all of your cases, as your practice continues, your memory will fade.  You must have a designated system to check for conflicts when new potential clients walk through your door.

Common Areas Where Conflicts Arise:

• Representation of a client that is directly adverse to another client
• Representation of multiple parties
• Representation of a client when the lawyer has a financial interest in the client entity
• Representation of a client when the lawyer serves as an officer or director for the client entity
• Accepting stock in lieu of fees
• Lawyer engaging in business with a client
• Failure to document non-representation

Features of a Good Conflict System:

• The system is integrated with other systems; i.e., time and billing and case management;
• Provides easy access to conflict data for everyone in the office;
• Checks are conducted at the three key stages of the representation: before face-to-face consultations, before a new file is opened and when a new party enters the case;
• Searches check for varying spelling of names and all prior names;
• Conflict entries show the party’s relationship with the client;
• Checks are conducted when new attorneys and staff members join the firm by reference to their  list of past clients;
• All parties connected with a case are entered into the system; and
• Conflict searches are documented in the file.
• A new client list is circulated weekly to all lawyers and staff in the office and is reviewed for possible conflicts.