It’s a general pool type of relationship where, if a conflict arises, where everyone in good faith will try to figure out what the best way to proceed is. I can never be adverse to one of those guys.
William Burck in Darren Samuelsohn, Bannon Lawyer Juggles Clients, Risks Conflicts in Russia Probe, POLITICO, 25 January 2018
A conflict of interest between an attorney and a client arises in any situation where, by reason of certain circumstances, representation by such an attorney prejudices, or could prejudice, the interests of the client and the wider interests of justice. Most systems of law have rules governing the participation of an attorney in a trial when there is a conflict of interest between the attorney and the client; such a conflict affects the essential fairness of the trial, and in respect of the Tribunal, implicates, first, the responsibility of the Trial Chamber … to ‘ensure that a trial is fair … with full respect for the rights of the accused…,’ and secondly, the right of the accused … to a fair trial.
Prosecutor v. Simić et al., IT-95-9-PT, Decision on the Prosecution Motion to Resolve Conflict of Interest Regarding Attorney Borislav Pisarević, 25 March 1999, p. 6.
Whose interests are you really looking after when you represent multiple clients in a case?
Imagine you are called upon to represent several witnesses in an ongoing investigation. As you conduct your initial interview with these potential clients, can you guarantee that you can fully, fairly, and forthrightly represent their interests, that you will utterly respect and keep secret any information they pass on to you, that you will not compromise their interests while zealously representing one of the other potential clients/witnesses, that you will not suggest an adjustment of perceptions or inferences drawn from a memory of events, or that you will not abandon any of the potential clients midway through the case after amassing institutional memory for a handsome, non-refundable fee?
Identifying and dealing with conflicts of interest can be pesky, especially when there are huge fees and/or lots of publicity to be had. Indulging in self-delusion that a conflict does not really exist – or that if one does, there is a way around it (all the stars are aligned) – is not as uncommon as one might expect, even amongst the very best of lawyers. Whether it is greed, publicity, irrational self-confidence, or profound obliviousness that causes lawyers to ignore or attempt to minimize conflicts matters not. What is at stake is the client’s fate. Continue reading “Representing Multiple Witnesses: a risky gambit”