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The Florida Bar
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PROFESSIONAL ETHICS OF THE FLORIDA BAR

OPINION 67-37
January 8, 1968

Absent consent of the clients, it would not be proper for legal services program to represent conflicting interests, whether different lawyers provided the representation or whether different “law offices” were involved.

Canon: 6
Opinion: 66-56

Chairman MacDonald stated the opinion of the committee:

A lawyer member of the Board of Directors of South Florida Migrant Legal Services Program, Inc., an organization funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity for the dispensing of legal services, and presumably similar to Law, Inc. of Hillsborough County, described in our Opinion 66-56 [since withdrawn], inquires whether the entity may properly represent two or more persons possessing conflicting interests. We are further asked whether the answer to the basic inquiry would differ if it were assumed that separate “law offices” operated in the program would represent the individuals in question, or different attorneys in the same law office would represent them.

Canon 6 describes the obligations of lawyers with reference to the representation of conflicting interests. As set forth at length in our 66-56, the Canons are fully operative upon the individual lawyers dispensing legal services for OEO programs. It is our judgment that, absent consent as prescribed in Canon 6, it would not be proper for this OEO program to provide representation of conflicting interests, whether different lawyers provided the representation, or whether different “law offices” were involved. It is manifest that this program, like the one described in 66-56, is managed by a single executive reporting to a single board. Presumably there is at least some commingling of records at a central point and there is the ordinary interchange of information between attorneys typical of any large law firm. Thus in our judgment it would be entirely inappropriate to permit such representation.

We underline that the type of clientele to whom services of this program are dispensed are such that any consent to such representation as described in Canon 6 must be procured with extreme caution, and that any doubt whatever must be resolved against the representation. Hopefully, the incidence of potential conflicts will not be great. In the event that such conflicts develop it is to be hoped that legal aid programs or lawyer referral services already existent in the county would provide the necessary volunteer representation. In the event that this type aid is not available it is suggested that application be made to the appropriate court for instructions.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]