Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The Missouri Supreme Court recently issued a formal ethics opinion approving collaborative law practice. Missouri joins the majority of states having addressed the issue. The formal opinion (one of only six issued since 1996) concluded that, as a type of limited scope representation, collaborative practice requires informed consent by the clients. On the issue of conflict of interest between attorney and client, the court concluded that the tension between the attorney's interests in continuing in a case and the client's interest in abandoning the collaborative process is little different from other situations in which an attorney must choose to put his or her client's interest first.
The court concluded, "The potential that individual attorneys may violate the duty of loyalty, from time to time, does not make the practice generally unethical, as long it is reasonable to believe that the vast majority of attorneys will fulfill their ethical obligations. In the context of collaborative law, the tension between the interests is not unreasonable."
Read the Missouri Formal Opinion 124 online (last visited September 9, 2009 bgf)
For an article summarizing the ethical issues and positions on collaborative law practice, see Barbara Glesner Fines, The Ethics of Collaborative Lawyering, Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Vol. 21, p. 141, 2008 Available online at SSRN (last visited September 10, bgf)