These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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9-Government Lawyer Conflicts

Determining whether a lawyer may represent one government entity while being adverse to another depends upon "whether the two government entities involved must be regarded as the same client" or whether one representation may be "materially limited" by the other, in which case the conflict might be curable with consent. Determining if governmental entities are the same client is a "matter of common sense and sensibility" including such factors as: entities' understandings and expectations; any understanding between the entities and the lawyers; whether the government entities have "independent legal authority with respect to the matter for which the lawyer has been retained;" the entities' stake in the substantive issues or shared concerns about the outcome. Determining if one representation would be "materially limited" by another representation depends on whether the matter would affect the "financial well-being or programmatic purposes" of either client. In some situations, a lawyer's representation of a government entity "on an important issue of public policy so identifies her with an official public position" that the lawyer could not oppose the government, even on an entirely unrelated matter.

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn