Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Can Personal Volunteer Activities Create Conflict of Interest?

I was recently contacted by a paralegal who was trying to address her supervising attorney's concerns with the paralegal's volunteer efforts. The paralegal works for a solo practioner who also handles criminal defense cases. The paralegal volunteers with a religios group that works with inmates at an area prison. The group's activities including helping the inmates with anger issues, self esteem, and GED classes.

In prison where the paralegal volunteers is not one from which her supervising attorney gets clients. The paralegal intentionally avoided volunteering at the county jail for that reason. She also does not tell anyone at the prison that she is a paralegal, does not discuss any legal issues while volunteering, and has made it clear to her fellow volunteers that there is to be no mention of her being a paralegal.

The problem is her attorney feels her activities are a potentail conflict of interest. She has reviewed with her attorney the steps she has taken to avoid potential issues but her attorney still isn't satisfied.

I'd be interested in your comments as to whether the paralegal should stop her volunteer activities in order to avoid a potential, though perhaps unlikely, conflict of interest.

1 comment:

  1. Greetings. I am studying to become a Paralegal in the State of North Carolina. I found this post interesting and do have some comments regarding the attorney's concerns about potential conflict(s) of interest. While the Paralegal may be volunteering in a program that is performing good works, there could be a situation where the Paralegal could inadvertently and unintentionally disclose confidential information in conversation-"Slip of the Tongue" accidents. We do it in our daily lives, the "Don't tell anyone what I told you". You end up telling your spouse what you were not supposed to divulge while dining, in the car...While the Paralegal is not volunteering in a correctional facility containing clients represented by their attorney, it could be possible that the Paralegal encounters an inmate in that facility who could be related to or knows a client represented by the Paralegal's firm. In what capacity is the Paralegal involved in assisting with Anger Management counseling? While a good work, this could be an issue. What are the guidelines of the program in which the Paralegal is involved?