Opinion date: Feb. 7, 2002
Ethics issue presented:
May the Inquirer, who intends to represent the Wife in a divorce action, represent both Husband and Wife in a joint Bankruptcy Petition?
Facts as presented by Inquirer:
Inquirer intends to represent Wife in a divorce action and has already formed an attorney-client relationship for that purpose. Wife has indicated that she wants to file bankruptcy, and Inquirer agrees that bankruptcy would be appropriate, but also believes that strategic decisions that need to be made in the bankruptcy case will have an effect on substantive property rights of the parties in the divorce action. Inquirer wants to know if Inquirer could later represent Wife in the divorce after representing both Wife and Husband in the bankruptcy. Inquirer also indicated that Inquirer would not be filing the divorce action until after the bankruptcy action was commenced.
The applicable rule is 1.7. The Inquirer agreed that, even during the bankruptcy of Husband and Wife, Inquirer would be concentrating on protecting Wife for the coming divorce action. Under Rule 1.7, since Wife's interests in the subsequently filed divorce would be directly adverse to Husband, Inquirer could not represent Wife in the divorce if Inquirer represented both parties in the bankruptcy.
The Professional Ethics Committee provides a confidential telephone consultation service to members of the ACBA on questions of their own ethical conduct. To reach the Duty Officer for any given month, see www.acba.org or call the ACBA at 412-402-6600.