Are perceived conflict of interests fairly subjective? What can encourage an attorney to recuse themselves from a case or client while another might not?

Is a court of law the final authority on what constitutes a perceived conflict of interest?


1 Answer 1


Conflict of Interest in a legal sense is not subjective: if in the circumstances a reasonable person would identify a conflict of interest then there is a conflict of interest.

Legally, reasonable is an objective standard. Practically, different people will draw the line of reasonable at different points.

As always, a court will only intervene if there is a dispute (people can agree that there is or is not a conflict of interest) and the parties ask it to. If it does, then it has the final word on what is reasonable.

  • I don't see any reference to a reasonable person in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct as the primary determiner of conflicts of interest. In almost all the cases, it's based on what is the case, not what the lawyer reasonably believes he can do (and for the part where it does matter what the lawyer reasonably believes, he also needs informed consent by all involved).
    – cpast
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 3:26
  • @cpast You don't need to see them, the "reasonable person test" is a standard tenant of common law. And, by the way, the reasonable person is a legal hypothetical, not a real person and certainly not a person involved in the decision.
    – Dale M
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 3:55
  • 2
    Note that the question was about "perceived" conflict of interest. That would include situations where you have a conflict of interest on a first glance, but there isn't actually a conflict of interest when you look carefully.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 14:22

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