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Ethical Considerations

Let us assume that an entrepreneur has undergone whatever intake procedure the transactional clinic has established and that the student(s) assigned to the matter and their instructor are preparing for their first face-to-face meeting with the new client.

Clinical students (and practicing lawyers) who provide legal assistance to entrepreneurs are exposed to a variety of ethical questions, and these are likely to arise at the very first encounter. Probably the most common is: who is the client to whom the clinic owes its undivided loyalty? Is it the individual who approached the clinic looking for legal assistance, that individual along with his or her business partners, the entity (if it is the clinic’s recommendation that a corporation or LLC be formed), or all of these? If there appear to be multiple clients with potentially conflicting objectives, can the ethical dilemma be resolved by having each of them consent in writing to the multiple representation?

Another question that arises frequently in a transactional clinic is one of professional competence: Do my instructor and I have adequate expertise to handle this particular matter?

Issues like these provide an excellent opportunity for students to explore their professional obligations in a real world setting.

For guidance on the handling of such issues and a sample client engagement letter, see Operating Transactional Clinics.

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