Charlotte, MI asked in Landlord - Tenant for Michigan

Q: I have a question about conflict of interest.

Can my former landlord (Who is taking my business, Adorn Kids, to court right now) retain legal services from the same lawyer who represented my husband in court during his divorce proceedings not long ago? My husband is a 50% stakeholder at Adorn kids. In addition to this, My husband and I had (until very recently) shared a friendship with the lawyer in question during which time my husband would occasionally seek advice regarding the business from this lawyer as friends often do. The friendship dissipated when this lawyer showed less than favorable performance in court regarding a custody issue my husband was having and we are all no longer on friendly terms. This lawyer hasn’t himself appeared in court against us, he has instead sent other lawyers who work at his firm (lawyers who have also represented my husband during his divorce) as he insists there is no conflict of interest here. Given all of this info, is there really no conflict of interest here?? Thankyou for your time.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Brent T. Geers
Brent T. Geers
Answered
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: You may have a point here, but it sounds like it is an issue the judge may need to weigh in on through a motion you file. If you have not already, you need to seek advice from an attorney familiar with civil procedure and rules of professional conduct.

Michael Zamzow
Michael Zamzow
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: There might be a conflict--the question begins at--"who is the client?" and "was the relationship terminated?" The rules of professional conduct generally advise that a lawyer may not advocate against a client the lawyer represents in some other matter, even if the other matter is wholly unrelated. But in this case it (A) sounds like the company is being sued, and the lawyer's relationship was with your husband, those are different 'persons'; and (B) the relationship was terminated.

So even if the attorney-client relationship was established with the business, it was terminated, and the rules only prohibit a lawyer from engaging in a "the same or substantially related matter," unless you were receiving advice from the attorney regarding the landlord/tenant relationship, it might be difficult to show there is a conflict of interest.

However, your business's current attorney would be a better place to get the answer from as the above doesn't even scratch the surface of analysis required. Your current attorney will weigh in on the strategy as well as the merits of filing such a motion. And your attorney MIGHT be able to properly raise the question of conflict to the court, but it will be viewed by the court with caution.

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