The attorney-client relationship enjoys special protection. An attorney, along with a doctor, spouse and priest, is one of the few people who cannot be obligated to testify or reveal information when it would incriminate another. Moreover, an attorney also has certain special obligations to a client, and his or her failure to fulfill those obligations can result in penalties including monetary fines, a malpractice verdict, and/or loss of the attorney’s license to practice law.
In a divorce, an attorney also cannot represent another client if there is a conflict of interest with an existing or former client. This means that once an attorney-client relationship has been formed – for example, when Joe retains Atty. Jones – the attorney must turn down any work that would conflict with his duty to be an advocate for his existing client.
Moreover, if during the happier times of the marriage, Joe and Mary retained Atty. Jones to write their wills ands trust arrangements for their children, he cannot represent either of them in their divorce from each other. That is because the attorney-client relationship is a privileged relationship. Almost anything a client tells an attorney in confidence cannot be repeated. There are a few limited exceptions, but privilege means that Atty. Jones cannot represent either of them because he has privileged information about each of them.