When a lawyer does not hold his or her client’s best interests paramount, the results of a case can be unfair. The job of an attorney is to protect a client’s legal interests and to adhere to the standards of the legal profession while doing so. When attorneys have a conflict of interest or show some other sign of incompetence, the clients can suffer as a result.
The ex-wife of one of Morgan Stanley’s senior financial services executives has recently accused her divorce attorneys of having a very serious conflict of interest. She has claimed in a legal malpractice lawsuit that when the attorneys were representing her in divorce proceedings they had major ties to Morgan Stanley.
Apparently the firm had previously represented the company in a $400 million transaction, and it did not disclose this to the woman.
At the time of their divorce, the woman’s husband was the head of capital markets and international and domestic private wealth management for Morgan Stanley.
The lawsuit claims that as a result of her attorneys’ ties to Morgan Stanley, they failed to protect her best interests during the divorce proceedings. On the contrary, the plaintiff is arguing that the firm actually intentionally protected her former husband.
One example given in the lawsuit states that the woman’s attorneys did not seek to possess her former husband’s securities licenses–which would have been one of the most important assets in the divorce.
The woman has requested signficant damages in the lawsuit–$8.3 million in compensatory damages as well as $25 million punitive damages in addition to a refund of legal fees paid.
The future of this lawsuit remains to be seen, but the allegations are an example of the risks of working with an attorney who has a conflict of interest.
Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insights, “Blank Rome sued for malpractice in ex-Morgan Stanley executive’s divorce case,” Casey Sullivan, May 29, 2013