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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22-Interviews with Prospective Clients

73-Family Law Lawyers

A husband planning to divorce his wife interviewed a number of lawyers in town, "but with no intent to hire them" because he already knows he will retain another lawyer. The wife interviewed that lawyer, and signed a disclaimer confirming that her initial interview "does not create an attorney/client relationship." The Bar held that lawyers must maintain the confidentiality of information they acquire from prospective clients. The disclaimer did not eliminate that duty, because it did not address the confidentiality issue. "To be effective, the disclaimer must clearly demonstrate that the prospective client has given informed consent to the attorneys' use of confidential information protected under Rule 1.6." Thus, the lawyer interviewed by the wife could not represent the husband unless the wife consented. In contrast, the husband's interview of other lawyers (including the one ultimately hired by the wife) did not create a duty of confidentiality, because the husband's "primary purpose in meeting with Attorney B was to preclude him from representing the wife." Thus, the wife's lawyer was not disqualified despite having acquired confidential information from the husband. The Bar further explained that a lawyer would be acting unethically if the lawyer were "to direct a new client to undertake this sort of strategic elimination of attorneys for the opposing party."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn