Giving New Meaning to Client “Relations”

Donald Wall, Esq., PhD | Giving New Meanings to the Term "Relations" OK, this one may not come up that often, but just in case it does….

I was reading an article today in the American Bar Association Journal Law News about a Minnesota lawyer who admittedly had an affair with a divorce client. This alone raises issues, at least in New York, but this particular lawyer apparently felt either his legal or sexual talent allowed him to also bill for his time for “meetings” actually spent horizontally with the client.

The lawyer in question lost his law license “for an indefinite period”.

It’s not clear if the attorney was suspended merely for having sexual relations with his client (the lawyer in question was male) or for charging for his time while doing so (see, “chutzpa”). Other than the prurient character of the story, I write about this simply to highlight that in New York, potential clients will be happy/sad/disappointed/depressed/thrilled/relieved (you choose those that apply) to learn that lawyers are prohibited from requiring or demanding sexual relations from any person (spouses are excluded). Begging, apparently, remains totally legal.

In addition, for those of us in the matrimonial field, with one exception, attorneys are prohibited from entering into sexual relations with a client during the course of the lawyer’s representation of that client (even assuming they don’t charge for their time). The fact that this prohibition only extends to lawyers handling domestic relations matters perhaps says something about the matrimonial bar.

The exception, you ask?  Lawyers and clients already having sexual relations prior to the initiation of the client-lawyer relationship are free to continue to carry on (which proves the maxim, timing is everything). Lawyers subject to this exception may wish to include an acknowledgment in their retainer agreement that the parties have been engaging in sexual conduct prior to the retention. (Kidding!)

So the take-away here is that if a lawyer and client feel that attraction during the representation, finish the case before acting on anything or find a new client (or lawyer).

As always, comments on this blog are welcome, however, please resist the temptation to post comments about lawyers/clients getting screwed, filing versus dropping briefs, stiff penalties and motions to withdraw.