Do you know when your attorney-client relationships end? This apparently simple question can bedevil even the most experienced ethics lawyers. Pinpointing the end of the relationship is critical for at least two reasons. First, it distinguishes between a “current” client and a “former” client for conflicts purposes. Since conflicts with current clients are subject to a much higher standard and – in some cases – are unwaivable, knowing whether someone is a former or current client is essential to getting the conflict analysis right. Second, it cuts off the “continuous representation” tolling period, which is necessary in many legal malpractice cases to calculate the statute of limitations. This article discusses the sometimes perplexing task of identifying the end of the relationship, analyzes a recent New York case on that issue, and offers suggestions for addressing the problem.
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