Legal Ethics Practice of Law

Representing Co-Parties? Send This Letter.

lawyers advising co-clients about potential conflicts of interestWhen you represent individuals as co-parties to a case, there’s either an actual conflict or a potential for one. That’s why you need to send a letter like this to both parties.

Start the letter by explaining your professional duty under the circumstances:

This letter concerns my prospective representation of both you and _ _[specify co-party, e.g., your adult sister, Martha Smith]_ _ in connection with _ _[describe case, e.g., your personal injury claims against Moveasy Trucking Co. from a vehicle collision on July 4, 2011]_ _.  Under Cal Rules of Prof Cond 1.7(b), “[a] lawyer shall not, without informed written consent from each affected client… represent a client if there is a significant risk the lawyer’s representation of the client will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to or relationships with another client.” In this case, I must have both your and _ _[specify co-party, e.g., your sister]_ _’s written consent to act as your joint attorney, because _ _[specify reason, e.g., although you both sustained injuries from the same third party, you were driving the vehicle in which both you and your sister were injured]_ _.

You can then soften your approach by assuring them that, if you represent the co-parties, you are confident that you can exercise independent professional judgment, preserve their confidences, and otherwise competently and ethically represent each of them.

Note to them, however, that if unforeseen events develop that would prevent you from carrying out your responsibilities to each of them, you will have to withdraw. Encourage them to seek the advice of independent counsel about your representation.

If the co-parties have already given you oral consent to your representation, include a provision like this:

When we spoke on _ _[date]_ _, you expressed your consent to my representing both of you [as well as your willingness to enter into my standard attorney-client agreement], despite the issue of conflicting interests. This letter, which includes space below for you to sign your name, will serve to confirm that consent. Therefore, please sign, date, and return the original of this letter to me in the stamped, self-addressed envelope provided. Please keep a copy of the signed letter for yourself.

If they haven’t yet given consent, include a provision stating that, despite the issue of conflicting interests outlined in this letter, the clients wish to have you represent both of them. Ask them to indicate that consent by signing and dating the letter and returning it to you.

Make sure to include a clear signing space at the end of the letter:

I understand the disclosure made above and hereby consent to your representation of me as my attorney in this matter.

Date: _ _ _ _ _ _

_ _[Signature]_ _

_ _[Printed name]_ _


Don’t send your fee agreement until you’ve received the original signed and dated letter from both co-parties.

Get sample language for all of your client communications from initial contact and retention to the conclusion of a case in CEB’s California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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