July 28, 2011 Articles

The "I Am Not Your Lawyer" Case

When an attorney-client relationship is inferred, there is almost always an attendant issue of conflict of interest.

By James A. Brown and Carey L. Menasco

It is no secret that the “citadel of privity” has been under assault over the past 20 years or so. Traditionally, express mutual consent of attorney and client was necessary to form an attorney-client relationship. See, e.g., Valls v. Johanson & Fairless, L.L.P., 314 S.W.3d 624, 633 (Tex. Ct. App. 2010) (generally, attorney-client relationship arises from lawyer’s agreement to render professional services to client; Bergman v. New England, Ins. Co., 872 F.2d 672, 674 (5th Cir. 1989) (applying Louisiana law and finding no liability to non-client; solemn duties to client should not be “involuntarily thrust” upon the attorney). Courts today will infer the relationship from the “totality of circumstances,” including a course of conduct and the putative client’s “reasonable expectations.” See generally 1 Mallen & Smith, Legal Malpractice, 2006 Ed., §§ 7.8, et seq.

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