This Article analyzes the effect of doctrinal developments regarding disqualification of counsel for conflicts of interest' on the practice of legal aid. "Conflict of interest" is the term used by lawyers to describe situations in which an attorney is unable to represent or to continue representing a client because of a competing allegiance. Although such conflicts may result from the personal or financial self-interest of attorneys, this Article focuses primarily on those conflicts which arise out of the intrusion of competing allegiances caused by clients with adverse or potentially adverse interests.
After considering the impact of the conflict of interest dilemma on the delivery of legal services to the poor, this Article explores whether nonprofit, government-subsidized legal aid organizations should be subject to the same conflicts rules as the rest of the legal profession. It argues that, because the fiduciary relationship between lawyer and client demands loyalty to one's client, attorneys who represent legal aid clients should be subject to the same ethical obligations as members of the private bar. Moreover, this Article argues that, once a legal aid office steps in to provide legal assistance to the adversaries of conflicted clients, the government owes a special duty to those conflicted clients and must ensure that they receive legal representation. It examines several means of providing representation to conflicted indigents without compromising any ethical obligations. This Article concludes that some form of private sector involvement in the provision of legal services to the poor will often be necessary to provide representation to eligible conflicted clients without compromising the fiduciary relationship between lawyer and client.
Marshall J. Breger, Disqualification for Conflicts of Interest and the Legal Aid Attorney, 62 B.U. L. REV. 1115 (1982).