The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (“BBO”) has issued public admonition against an attorney for failing to obtain a former client’s consent before representing a new client in a substantially related matter adverse to the former client. In Admonition No. 15-23, the attorney had been employed by the law firm for eight years. During this period, the firm represented the former client’s spouse, seeking modification of a divorce based on allegations of child abuse. The attorney did not directly represent the spouse, but was consulted on a financial issue in the case.
The attorney left to start his own firm, and several years later, was retained by the former husband to defend new allegations of sex abuse a civil matter filed by his ex-wife. The attorney advised him of his firm’s prior representation of the ex-wife, but forgot that he had been personally consulted on the case, and also failed to obtain the ex-wife’s consent to represent her ex-husband.
The ex-wife informed the attorney of the conflict of interest and requested that he withdraw as counsel, but the attorney refused. Counsel for the ex-wife then filed a Motion to Disqualify, which the Court granted.