Paralegals and Conflicts of interest
Conflicts of interest is a very serious subject for attorneys and paralegals. Some paralegals believe that the subject of conflicts of interest only applies to the attorneys they work under. This is a myth and is very misunderstood. A conflicts of interest can arise for paralegals when they move to different law firms and/or start offering their paralegal skills as a service.
The American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules 1.7 through 1.10 addresses conflicts of interest. To simplify it, a conflict of interest refers to a situation where someone, such as an attorney has competing professional, personal obligations, or personal or financial interests, that would make it difficult to fulfill his or her duties legitimately and /or properly.
- Changing jobs is the most common way a conflict can occur. If a paralegal works for one law firm retained on a matter, and then changes jobs and works for the law firm representing the opposing party on the same matter, a conflict exists.
- If a close friend or family member is a party in a legal matter.
- If the paralegal is involved in an organization or business outside the office that is a party to a legal matter.
- If the paralegal, or anyone related to or close friends with the paralegal, has a financial interest in the outcome of the matter.
Paralegals working on a matter are obligated to inform their supervising attorney if any of these situations apply or arise during the course of the matter. Nevertheless, only the supervising attorney can make the decision whether or not an actual conflict exist based on the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules 1.7 through 1.10.
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