Can a lawyer have a romantic relationship with a client?

The circumstances in which a lawyer can be punished for personal relationships with clients vary by jurisdiction. Some states have something like banning lawyers and clients from starting romantic relationships. In Texas, courts have looked disapprovingly at family law lawyers who have intimate relationships with their clients whom they represent during divorce proceedings. In another case, when a lawyer had an affair with his client's wife, the court found the lawyer's actions to be “abhorrent to a member of our profession.

The state bar association sanctioned the lawyer for this conduct. Providing financial assistance to a client also introduces a conflict of interest in the attorney-client relationship. Rule 1.8 (j) of the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility says that a lawyer will not have sexual relations with a client unless there was a consensual sexual relationship between them when the client-lawyer relationship began. Any secrets disclosed to a lawyer by a client outside of their legal relationship may not be protected by the attorney-client privilege.

Whether unethical or not, once the relationship is established, the procedure for ending it is not that different from ending a relationship in the office, unless the other party (client, spouse, etc.) Rule 1.8 (k) of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, effective July 1, 1994, prohibits attorney-client sexual contact during the development of a professional legal relationship. Code B&P Section 6109.6 and PRC Rule 3-120, mentioned above, do not apply to ongoing consensual relationships prior to the commencement of the attorney-client relationship.

Albert Richardson
Albert Richardson

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