November 7, 1972
Ethics Opinon 1972-15
SUBJECT: CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Is it ethical for attorneys who share office space and secretarial help to represent adverse parties in litigation?
Such legal representation is unethical.
CANONS AND OPINIONS
Canon 6 specifically prohibits representation of conflicting interests.
Formal Opinions No. 33 and No. 104 of the American Bar Association Ethics Committee held that a partner was prohibited from representing a client who is suing a client of a member of the same partnership.
Informal Opinions No. 885 and No. 995 also prohibit any conflicting interests two lawyers might share in regard to clients they represent.
Drinker in Legal Ethics, page 106 states that:
"The duty not to represent conflicting interests or betray the confidences of a former client is not abrogated by a release signed by the former client.
"The injunction not to represent conflicting interests applies equally to law partners representing different clients who have interests conflicting with one another, also to lawyers, not partners, having offices together . . ."
These sources seem to apply either directly or indirectly to the situation presented. Whether or not the lawyers are actual partners, they still do business in the same office and it is, therefore, unethical to engage in such legal representation.
This opinion is advisory only. It is not binding upon the State Bar, the Board of Governors, its agents or employees.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Canon 6 is in the old Canons of Professional Ethics; this subject is now covered by Canon 5 of the A.B.A. Code of Professional Responsibility.
Disclaimer: This opinion was issued by the Legal Ethics Committee of the San Diego County Bar Association. It is advisory only and is not binding upon any member of the SDCBA, any other member of the State Bar of California, the State Bar of California or its Board of Governors, or any persons or tribunals charged with regulatory responsibilities. The SDCBA, its officers, directors, agents, and the Legal Ethics Committee members assume no responsibility or liability in rendering this opinion.