Most businesses are not profitable in their first year, which makes what I did last week even harder to write.
In my first year owning my own law practice, I had the opportunity to make six figures on one case representing a driver and passenger injured in a car accident. Last week, I gave the case up and won't earn any profit from it.
This was by far the most difficult decision I've made to date as a business owner, but to build an ethical practice, I decided I had to do it.
Even though I no longer represent anyone involved in the case, attorney-client confidentiality remains, so I can't get into the details. But I can share California law regarding one lawyer representing more than one person in connection with the same incident.
California Law when an Attorney Faces a Conflict of Interest Between His Clients
California Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.7 prohibits a lawyer from representing a client in a matter (a) that is directly adverse to or (b) that would present a significant risk that the representation would be “materially limited” by the lawyer’s responsibilities or relationship with another client.
When there is a conflict of interest between clients, lawyers sometimes continue representing the clients by (1) informing all clients of the conflict and (2) getting all clients' written consent to continue representing everyone jointly. However, written consent doesn't resolve the conflict -- it just acknowledges it is there and waives objection to it. The clients will continue to have conflicting interests and the lawyer may have to make decisions that will benefit one of his clients at the expense of another.
Each case is different, so it requires looking at the specific facts of the case and the nature of the conflict to determine whether joint representation after written consent is sufficient, or whether the clients need separate attorneys.
The Long Game
Building a business, whether it's a law firm or anything else, requires a long term focus. And as I've now experienced first hand, it requires making difficult decisions along the way.
Cutting ethical corners could mean making additional short term profit, but I know that doing things ethically will mean the best long-term result. Maybe it's good karma, but I have already signed new cases that should make up the revenue I lost on this one.
Maintaining a reputation for honesty, avoiding malpractice, and referrals from happy former clients are worth a lot more than settling an extra case this year. Onto the next one!
Costa Mesa car accident lawyer Blaise Patzkowski is an advocate for the rights of people injured in car accidents, bike accidents, motorcycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents in Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and across California. Mr. Patzkowski is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Hastings College of the Law. He has recovered many millions of dollars for people injured in car accidents. If you or your family member was hurt in a car, bicycle, motorcycle, or pedestrian accident, please contact Mr. Patzkowski.
Disclaimer: The information here is general information that should not be taken as legal advice. It cannot be guaranteed to be accurate, current or complete. No attorney-client relationship is established between you and our law firm by reading this article. This article should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a lawyer about the specific facts of your case.