The Florida Bar

April 11, 1960

As a general rule, an attorney cannot properly accept employment to attack the validity of an instrument which he drew, and a law firm cannot properly accept any employment which one of its partners cannot properly accept.

Canon: 6
Opinions: ABA 64, 71, 72

Note: An inquiry was made as to whether a city attorney could properly represent the city in a case challenging the validity of a contract drafted by his partner at a time when the partner was city attorney.

Chairman Holcomb stated the opinion of the committee:

Opinions of the members of the Committee indicate that “A lawyer may not accept employment to attack the validity of an instrument which he drew for a client or accept employment to take a position with regard to an instrument contrary to an opinion which he has given construing it.” Further, Opinion 71 of the American Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics holds that it would be improper for a City Attorney, who had devoted himself and his professional efforts to validation of municipal bonds, thereafter to attack the validity of such bonds, even though instructed to do so by the City Commission, and Opinion 64 [holds that] the fact that the personnel of the City Commission has changed would not justify him in attempting to nullify his own work. Opinion 72 holds: “The relations of partners in a law firm are such that neither the firm, nor any member or associate thereof, may accept any professional employment which any member of the firm cannot properly accept.”

Another member of the Committee feels that it is not unethical for the member to defend the cases against the City or negotiate settlement of them, even though his partner, while City Attorney, thought the contracts were valid and should be honored.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]