Sex with your Lawyer.
We have all watched movies and television shows that seem to glorify sexual relationships. Lawyers seem to have sex with everyone, clients,
the adverse party, and even opposing counsel. While that may make for great drama when watching a show, in real life, it is not allowed.
It is also not the party who is prohibited from having a sexual relationship with their lawyer, but rather, the lawyer is prohibited under
ethical guidelines, from engaging in such behavior. It is prohibited and unethical for a lawyer to have a sexual relationship with a client in
the State of Wisconsin.
SCR 20:1.8 (j) Conflict of interest; prohibited transactions; “A lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a current client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.”
“In this paragraph, ‘sexual relations’ means sexual intercourse or any other intentional touching of the intimate parts of a person or causing the person to touch the intimate parts of the lawyer.”
“When the client is an organization, a lawyer for the organization (whether inside counsel or outside counsel), shall not have sexual relations with a constituent of the organization who supervises, directs or regularly consults with that lawyer concerning the organization’s legal matters.”
Under the (ABA) American Bar Association rules of professional responsibility, rule 1.8 (j) applies: “A lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.” “While lawyers are associated in a firm, a prohibition in the foregoing paragraphs (a) through (i) that applies to any one of them, shall apply to all of them.”
The ABA comments under SCR 20:1.8(j) as to why the rule applies reads as follows:
“The relationship between a lawyer and a client is a fiduciary one in which the lawyer occupies the highest position of trust and confidence. The relationship is almost always unequal; thus, a sexual relationship between a lawyer and a client can involve unfair exploitation of the lawyers’ fiduciary role, in violation of the lawyer’s basic ethical obligation not to use the trust of the client to the client’s disadvantage. In addition, such a relationship presents a significant danger that, because of the lawyer’s emotional involvement, the lawyer will be unable to represent the client without impairment of the exercise of independent professional judgment. Moreover, a blurred line between the professional and personal relationship may make it difficult to predict to that extent client confidences will be protected by the attorney-client evidentiary privilege, since client confidences are protected by privilege only when they are imparted in the context of the client-lawyer relationship. Because of the significant danger of harm to the client interests and because the client’s own emotional involvement renders it unlikely that the client could give adequate informed consent, this Rule prohibits the lawyer from having sexual relations with a client regardless of whether the relationship is consensual and regardless of the absence of prejudice to the client.”
“Sexual relationships that predate the client-lawyer relationship are not prohibited. Issues relating to the exploitation of the fiduciary relationship and client dependency are diminished when the sexual relationship existed prior to the commencement of the client-lawyer relationship. However, before proceeding with the representation in these circumstances, the lawyer should consider whether the lawyer’s ability to represent the client will be materially limited by the relationship. See Rule 1.7 (a) (2). “
While there is nothing in the law that prohibits a client from having a sexual relationship with their lawyer, the ethical rules governing lawyers prohibit the lawyer from engaging in a sexual relationship with a client. While it may make for great drama in movies and television shows, it is unethical for a lawyer to have any type of a sexual relationship with their client. The only exception is if the relationship existed at that level, prior to the representation of the person as a client. Even then, any ethical attorney would most likely decline the representation and refer their former lover or current lover to another lawyer to handle that person’s legal matter.
Sources: American Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct, www.americanbar.org
Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules SCR 20:1.8 (j).
ABA comments at SCR 20:1.8
Do you have questions or concerns about the ethical conduct of your divorce lawyer? Contact Karp & Iancu, S.C. for a discreet and confidential consultation.