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Disqualifying Opposing Counsel by Instructing Client to Seek Consultation

Adopted: July 21, 1994

Opinion rules that a lawyer may not seek to disqualify another lawyer from representing the opposing party by instructing a client to consult with the other lawyer about the subject matter of the representation when the client has no intention of retaining the other lawyer to represent him.

Inquiry #1:

Attorney A meets with Client for a consultation about a family law matter. During the consultation, Attorney A recommends that Client set up appointments with Attorney X and Attorney Y. Attorney A advises Client to discuss his domestic case with the two other lawyers but with no intention of retaining either lawyer to represent him. The sole purpose for consulting with Attorney X and Attorney Y is to create a conflict of interest so that neither Attorney X nor Attorney Y can represent Client's spouse in the domestic action. Is it ethical for Attorney A to give this advice to his client?

Opinion #1:

No. Rule 7.2(a)(1) prohibits a lawyer from taking action on behalf of his client "when he knows or when it is obvious that such action would serve merely to harass or maliciously injure another." Assisting a client in creating a conflict of interest in order to obstruct the opposing party's access to counsel of her choice is action that serves merely to harass the other party and is an impediment to the right of clients freely to choose counsel.

Inquiry #2:

Does it make a difference if Client has paid a retainer fee to Attorney A before receiving this advice?

Opinion #2:


Inquiry #3:

Does it make a difference if Client, and not Attorney A, raises the issue by asking Attorney A whether he should consult with Attorney X and Attorney Y for the purpose of preventing his spouse from hiring either lawyer?

Opinion #3:

No. Whether the lawyer or the client first suggests this course of action, it is unethical for a lawyer to encourage his client to seek to disqualify certain lawyers from representing the opposing party.

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