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Should a Lawyer Ever Date a Client?

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Valentine's Day is quickly approaching. You, as usual, are stuck in your office. There's no time to dive into the dating pool. But what about the client pool? Should a lawyer ever date a client?

If you're a divorce attorney, you meet soon-to-be-single prospects all day long. So what's the harm?

For starters, you could be violating a rule of professional conduct.

Regardless of where you practice, your state has probably adopted a rule about conflicts of interest with current clients. The American Bar Association Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.8(j) sets the standard. It unequivocally states:

A lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.

States don't look kindly on these types of violations. Earlier this week, the Pioneer Press reported that the Minnesota Supreme Court had indefinitely suspended Thomas P. Lowe, an Eagan attorney who had an affair with a "vulnerable" client whom he represented in a divorce. Apparently, Lowe was billing her for time they spent having sex. (Brief thanks to Above the Law for bringing this to our attention.)

Granted, there are distinctions between Lowe's suspension and your run-of-the-mill client sex scenario. Here, Lowe had known the client for many years, the Pioneer Press reports. Still, he commenced a sexual relationship after the attorney-client relationship and billed the client for time when he certainly wasn't deposing her. That's a recipe for trouble.

"Sex and the City" may have perpetuated the fairytale of the sympathetic divorcée marrying her lovable lawyer, but that's no excuse for life to imitate art. If your law practice is leaving you lonely, set up an online dating profile. Don't date your clients.

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