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Attorney Conflicts of Interest in the Area of Natural Resources Law

Clayton J. Parr, Proceedings of 30th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1984)

[1] Defining a Conflict of Interest

In the broad sense, a conflict of interest exists whenever any personal value or belief, relationship with any other person, or personal interest causes, or might cause, dilution of a lawyer's commitment to pursue the interests of his or her client.1 Included are occasions where the existence of such conditions might cause the disclosure of information given in confidence to the lawyer by an existing or former client.

The very breadth of the definition makes absolute purity virtually unattainable. Lawyers exposed to a swirl of deals, people, causes, problems, and experiences cannot conceivably carry out all professional tasks free of conflicting loyalties that might cause the lawyer to deviate from unwavering commitment to the client's cause.2 Some of such tension is [1-3] desirable, for often the client's perspective is, as it should be, influenced by the lawyer's sense of values. A good lawyer, in fact, does not always simply accept a client's initial direction, but rather attempts to work with the client to mold a course of action consistent both with the client's desires and needs and with the lawyer's moral values and sense of responsibility.3

It is, nevertheless, necessary to identify and categorize the types of conflicts of interest that a lawyer might face, so that the existence of a conflict can be recogni