Monday, October 15, 2012

The Limits Of The Rules Governing Lawyer Conduct

The holding in a revised decision issued last week by the Washington Court of Appeals, Division Three:

Rules of professional conduct have been used to prohibit lawyers from enforcing agreements with clients that lawyers were a party to.  But those same rules have not been applied to support actions for legal malpractice or for equitable relief or damages based on a lawyer's ethical lapses.  Here, the court refused to enforce a business agreement between two limited liability companies (LLCs) after concluding that the lawyer representing the parties represented both sides at the same time and therefore violated Rule of Professional Conduct (RPC) 1.7 (prohibiting lawyers from representing clients if there is a conflict of interest).  We conclude that the remedy of rescission cannot be based on a violation of RPC 1.7.  We, however, also conclude based on the court's findings that the interests of the lawyer and one of the LLCs were sufficiently aligned to warrant rescission of the agreement based on a violation of RPC 1.8 (prohibiting lawyers from entering into business agreements with their clients).  We therefore affirm the superior court's judgment ordering rescission.

(Mike Frisch)

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