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

15-Representing Other Entities - Miscellaneous

71-Representing Corporations

A city attorney represents the city which, pursuant to its charter, acts through an elected mayor, a city council, and a chief administrative officer. If asked by a city council member to prepare an ordinance that would affect the relationship between the city council and the mayor, the city attorney does not have a duty to keep the draft ordinance a secret from the mayor. Absent an organizational policy to the contrary (which would guide the city attorney's disclosure obligations), the city attorney may advise all of the city's constituents of the ordinance if the city attorney determines that the disclosure is in the best interest of the ultimate client (the city). The same is true of the city attorney's disclosure to other members of city council. If a conflict develops between various city constituents, the city attorney may be obligated to suggest that one or more of the constituents engage independent counsel. Although "an organization may adopt appropriate procedures for managing internal conflict issues," the city charter's language requiring the city attorney to represent all city constituents makes it highly unlikely that the city attorney could arrange for different subordinates in his office to represent the city council and the mayor (without sharing information about those separate representations). The charter authorizes the mayor to employ special counsel if a conflict arises with other city constituents. Unless the city attorney's representation of the city will be materially limited, the city attorney can represent all of the city's constituents even if there are policy issue differences among them. If the interest of one constituent becomes adverse to the organization's (city's) interest, that constituent should obtain separate representation. As the city's lawyer, the city attorney "may render legal opinions or conclusions with which a [city] constituent might strongly disagree or perceive as favoring another constituent."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn