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The rules for conflicts of interest also apply to non-lawyer members of a law firm

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Civil and commercial litigation

In a recent matter, Justice Stephen W. Hamilton rendered an important decision regarding the conflict of interest for attorneys. In it, Justice Hamilton had to decide whether the rules of conflicts of interest apply only to the lawyers within a firm or, rather, if their application extends to non-lawyer members of the same firm.

In the case at hand, one of the Defendants requested the disqualification of the law firm representing the Plaintiff on the grounds that he (the Defendant) met with a business consultant working with the Plaintiff’s lawyer. This particular situation is somewhat unique and different from other conflict cases, in that the said advisor, while exercising his profession from within a firm that employs lawyers, was not a lawyer.

Since most conflict cases generally involve confidentiality issues between lawyers, Justice Hamilton was asked to extend and widen the application of the rules given the particular context before him.

After careful analysis, Justice Hamilton concluded that the multi-disciplinary nature of many firms requires a wider application and control of the legal community subject to the rules of conflicts of interest. While this decision adds limits and constraints to the legal profession, its goal is obviously to give additional protection to the public in a marketplace that includes an ever increasing multi-disciplinary practice.

Harry Karavitis, Attorney-at-Law
Alepin Gauthier Avocats inc.

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