Legal Ethics Opinion #1551

Conflict of Interest--Personal Interest Affecting Representation: 
Disclosure to Client of Attorney's Marriage Plans or Marriage
When (Potential) Spouse is Competitor of Attorney's Client

You have presented a hypothetical situation in which Attorney A
has become engaged to a client who is a shareholder and officer
of a company selling consulting services to the federal
government.  Attorney A also represents several competitors of
the client/fiancee.  From time to time, those competitors may bid
jointly with client/fiancee's company on certain contracts for
the federal government; may also bid on the same projects as
client/fiancee's company, i.e., in competition with that company;
and may submit bids on other projects.  You indicate that
Attorney A does not specifically know what projects each company
is bidding on.  Attorney A does not make bid/no bid decisions for
client/fiancee's company nor is Attorney A involved in the
competitive decision-making process for that company.

The facts you present also indicate that Attorney A maintains an
office separate from that of the client/fiancee, secures any
proprietary information in that office, and does not discuss any
proprietary information with the client/fiancee.

You have asked the committee to opine whether, under the facts of
the inquiry, Attorney A has a duty to tell those clients who may
be competitive to the fiancee's company about the marriage plans. 
You have also inquired as to whether the actual marriage would
alter the committee's opinion.

The appropriate and controlling disciplinary rules relative to
your inquiry are DR 5-l05(B) and (C) which prohibit respectively
a lawyer from continuing multiple employment if the exercise of
his independent professional judgment in behalf of a client will
be or is likely to be adversely affected by his representation of
another client except if it is obvious that he can adequately
represent the interest of each and if each consents to the
representation after full disclosure of the possible effect of
such representation on the exercise of his independent
professional judgment on behalf of each; DR 5-l0l(A) which
provides 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 DR 4-l0l(B)
which, absent consent from the client, prohibits a lawyer from
knowingly revealing a confidence or secret of his client or using
that confidence or secret to the disadvantage of the client or to
the advantage of himself or a third person.

With regard to DR 5-l05(B), the committee has repeatedly opined
that simultaneous representation of clients who have competing
interests poses potential conflicts notwithstanding dissimilarity
of the subject matter.  See LEO #706.  However, the committee is
cognizant that, under the facts you present, while the multiple
clients may be in competition with each other in a business
setting, there is no indication that any legal adversity
presently exists.  Thus, the committee is of the opinion that
unless and until any two or more clients become adverse to each
other in legal matters, it would not be per se improper for
Attorney A to continue representing those companies which may
compete with each other for government contracts.

To the extent that your personal or spousal relationship creates
a personal interest that may affect your independent professional
judgment on behalf of a client, the committee is of the view that
DR 5-l0l(A) permits such personal conflicts to be cured, and
representation continued, with consent of the client(s) after
full and adequate disclosure.

Committee Opinion
October 20, 1993