Legal Ethics Opinion #1523

Conflict of Interest - Personal Interest Affecting Representation
- Limitation of Extent of Representation And Attorney's Personal
Relationship With Opposing Party  

You have presented a hypothetical situation in which Plaintiff
and Defendant have been, and still are, long-time friends. 
Plaintiff was significantly injured by Defendant's dog while
Plaintiff was tending the animal during Defendant's vacation. 
Defendant reported the occurrence to the homeowner's insurance
carrier.  The carrier's policy is sufficient to adequately
compensate Plaintiff based on known facts.

You indicate further that Plaintiff does not wish to sue
Defendant and desires to retain Attorney, with the understanding
that all efforts will first be exhausted towards amicable
resolution without instituting suit.  Attorney has disclosed to
Plaintiff that Defendant lives in Attorney's neighborhood, that
the two are casual acquaintances, and that Attorney would
withdraw from the case (absent prejudice to Plaintiff) in the
event litigation became necessary to resolve the case to
Plaintiff's satisfaction. Plaintiff, after learning these
disclosures, still seeks to retain Attorney on a contingent fee
You have asked the committee to opine whether, under the facts of
the inquiry, Attorney may undertake representation of Plaintiff. 

As you have indicated, the appropriate and controlling
Disciplinary Rules related to your inquiry are DRs 5-101(A) which
requires that a lawyer shall not accept employment if the
exercise of his professional judgment on behalf of his client may
be affected by his own financial, business, property, or personal
interests, except with the consent of his client after full and
adequate disclosure under the circumstances; and 7-101(B)(1)
which provides that a lawyer may, with the express or implied
authority of his client, exercise his professional judgment to
limit or vary his client's objectives and waive or fail to assert
a right or position of his client.

The committee believes that the attorney's casual relationship
with Defendant constitutes a personal interest affecting
representation as articulated under DR 5-101(A).  However, the
committee recognizes that the impact of such personal interests
may be measured along a continuum, with the least significant
interests representing only a de minimis conflict which does not
require disclosure to or consent from the client.  See LEO #1465.

The committee also opines that it is not improper, under DR 7-
101(B)(1), for Attorney to limit representation to nonlitigation
measures since Attorney has disclosed, and client has consented
to, such limitation.  See LEO #1264.

Committee Opinion
May 11, 1993