Competitor and Other “Finite-Pie” Conflicts

Does a lawyer offend ethical prohibitions against representing adverse parties by representing two different clients, in otherwise unrelated matters, if the two clients are business competitors? Lawyers who focus overmuch on long-range practice development, and thus who have much invested in a negative answer, wish the answer were a flat and emphatic “no.” The lawyer codes and the existing, scattered cases have been reluctant to agree quite so wholeheartedly. Indeed, the cases indicate that there may be disabling conflicts in many such representations. Most standard treatises discuss the issue only in a cursory fashion, or not at all.

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