FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
January 8, 1968
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
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.
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Inc. of Hillsborough County, described in our Opinion 66-56 [since withdrawn],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.