Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Vermont Bar Journal, Fall 2017, Vol. 48, No. 3 - Page 31

by Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq. Conflicts of Interest and Attorney Accountability What happens in your firm after there’s been a hit during a conflicts check? Hope- fully the conflict concern is immediately brought to the attention of the intake at- torney. In firms that routinely and system- atically check for conflicts, this does occur. The interesting question however is this, is that action in and of itself sufficient? I would suggest that it is not, at least some of the time, and here’s one reason why. An identified conflict will occasionally put the intake attorney in a precarious situation. Sometimes there will simply be no bright line rule upon which to draw when trying to decide whether it is permissible to move forward or not. Add to this the possibility of a significant legal fee if the decision is made to move forward and my concern be- comes clear. Sometimes money drives eth- ics and, if and when it does, that can come back to haunt you. When faced with a potentially serious conflict that is coupled with a potentially significant legal fee, well let’s just acknowl- edge that reasonable minds may not always make the most responsible decision. Per- sonal desires, rationalizations, and financial pressures can sometimes cloud one’s think- ing. Given this reality, leaving any and all conflict resolution decisions entirely up to every intake attorney’s individual discretion can res