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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3-Multiple Representations on the Same Matter

7-Family Conflicts


43-Conflicts of Interest - Miscellaneous

67-Lawyers Acting as Guardians Ad Litem"

A lawyer faces several conflicts issues if she jointly represents multiple children who might have been abused at a childcare center, especially if there is only a limited insurance fund to pay all of the claimant clients. As “next friend” of each child, a parent can consent to such a joint representation. If there is only a limited fund available to settle all of the case, the settlement must comply with Rule 1.8(g)’s “aggregate settlement” rule - including a unanimous agreement among all the clients about “how the settlement is allocated and what amount shall be distributed to each.” In such an “aggregate settlement” situation, the lawyer may not participate in such an aggregate settlement if even one client disagrees with the settlement. To obtain court approval of the settlement, a guardian ad litem (GAL) must be appointed for the minor children. Such GALs are subject to the Virginia ethics rules “as they would be in any other case, except when the special duties of a GAL conflict with such rules.” If there is a limited fund for an aggregate settlement, the GAL must agree with that arrangement. A GAL “must be appointed to waive the lawyer’s conflict in representing multiple children.” A single GAL may represent all of the minor children, because a court has “[t]he final decision as to the division of the settlement proceeds or recovery.” A GAL must also be appointed if the efforts fail and litigation begins.

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn