Legal professionals have a key role in upholding the law and ensuring justice.
However, it is important to be aware of potential boundary violations when interacting with clients. There are several signs of being at risk of crossing ethical boundaries.
1. Breach of confidentiality
As legal practitioners, maintaining client confidentiality is important. Sharing details of a client’s case with third parties, even without disclosing their identity, may signal a breach of trust. Such actions undermine the foundation of the attorney-client relationship and can have severe consequences.
2. Excessive personal involvement
A lawyer’s primary responsibility is to provide legal advice and representation, not to become overly immersed in a client’s personal affairs. Should a person start offering unsolicited personal advice, become emotionally entangled or blur the lines between professional and personal roles, they risk compromising the client’s best interests and breaching professional ethics.
3. Dual relationships
Lawyers should avoid situations where they have conflicting interests or multiple roles with a client. If a legal professional begins representing a client in a matter where their own personal or financial interests are at stake, it can lead to a violation of ethical boundaries.
4. Inappropriate communication
The manner of communication with clients can also reveal potential boundary issues. If a lawyer starts sending excessive, personal or inappropriate messages or gifts to a client, it can raise concerns about their professionalism and intentions. Communication should always remain focused on legal matters and happen in a respectful and ethical manner.
In 2022, the State Bar of California filed disciplinary charges against 156 attorneys. Preserving clear boundaries provides one way to avoid any license issues.