In my days as a lawyer I’ve never had this sort of thing happen to me, but I could imagine the scenario. Car Crash Carl walks in and asks me to represent him in a case. Let’s say he’s driving in his new mustang and the brakes fail. The traffic light designed by XYZ corporation malfunctions and John Doe, who was speeding, crashes into his car.
Let’s say that I already represent Ford and XYZ Corp as general counsel. If represent Car Crash Carl against my Ford and XYZ clients, I’d be violating more rules of ethics than I care to research. Some of the issues are that I couldn’t possibly advocate for the best interest of both clients and I’d be guaranteed to breach confidentiality if I did.
Say Carl lets me know that he will settle for less because he needs the money asap. If I tell Ford and XYZ this, I breach confidentiality and am not acting in Carl’s best interest. If I don’t tell Ford and XYZ, I’m not negotiating for them as effectively as I could be.
Another possibility is that I just have Carl sue John Doe. It’s certainly great for Ford and XYZ, but it might not be the best deal for Carl. If Carl wins, he may not be awarded as much by a jury or able to collect as much since John Doe’s pockets aren’t as deep.
Now let’s pretend I’m a business and I’m looking for a commercial broker to negotiate my lease. Do I go to a company that also represents landlords and will receive a commission from both sides if I lease from his landlord clients? How will they effectively advocate for both my company and the landlord? Can I be completely honest about my situation, knowing that my broker may use my information against me? Will they get me in the best possible location for my company if it means taking a potential tenant from their landlord client?
Maybe Carl should find a different lawyer who will advocate only for Carl and not the other side. Maybe the business should think about using a tenant advisor who will advocate only for them and not the landlord as well.