What If Your Lawyer Is Friends with the Other Lawyer?

OMG – my lawyer and my spouse’s lawyer act like friends – should I worry – or change lawyers? I can’t help feeling uncomfortable with their friendliness.

What if they are dating?

I believe it is to your advantage if the lawyers get along. But, I don’t think that applies if they are dating.

I suspect very few, if any, of you, ever saw the movie Adams Rib.

It’s an old-fashioned romantic comedy film starring Spencer Tracy and Audrey Hepburn who played husband and wife lawyers who oppose each other in court.

It all started when they read about a woman accused of attempting to murder her husband and the woman with whom he was having an affair.

Here is a link to a funny courtroom scene.

So, should you be concerned and uncomfortable if your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer are friends? Is it ethical for the lawyers?

The ethics rules for lawyers focus on a closer relationship than just friends. When lawyers representing different clients are related by blood or marriage, they must disclose it to their clients and get consent to continue. So, in real life, Tracy and Hepburn’s characters would have needed consent by everyone to oppose each other in court.

But what if they aren’t married – what if the lawyers are just friends? In most counties and especially in the area of family law, the lawyers know each other well because they practice in front of the Judges and among themselves so often. So, it is possible they will know each other well – sometimes being friends and sometimes being the opposite.

I believe that is an advantage, not a disadvantage, in almost every family law case if the lawyers not only know each other well but have a professional and personal connection. There is a great deal that must be worked out, and that‘s hard if your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer are at each other’s throats. It raises the costs of the litigation unnecessarily. The issues tend not to be about your case – but their rivalry and King or Queen of the Mountain mentality.

Lawyers who know each other in and out of court have more than likely developed respect for the other in reaching that “friendship.” Each also has learned that lawyers' strengths, tendencies, tactics, and weaknesses. They will know and be able to trust the other lawyer’s word on an agreement reached without immediately signing paperwork. I was taught as a young lawyer by my mentor and first boss, Fred Time, that your word is your bond. Never go back on your word once given. Nowadays, I can only hold to that concept among my “friends” at the courthouse. Being able to trust the word of a “friend” and colleague saves my client’s – and me – needless worry and a lot of money.

Even if I consider an opposing attorney a “friend,” once inside the Courtroom in a trial or hearing, the gloves are off. We both will vigorously represent our clients and do everything to win. As Family Lawyers, we take that responsibility very seriously for both professional and personal reasons. Both of us will put our clients’ interests ahead of any personal relationship we may have. The last I check practicing law is still a profession and a privilege – and those who spend their life in this profession treat it as such – friends or not.

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