Lawyers In Love…With A Client?

Cupid’s arrow can strike us anywhere and at any time. If struck by one of Cupid’s arrows, it is believed that you will instantly fall in love with the person you are meant to be with. But what is a lawyer to do if Cupid’s arrow strikes and causes sparks to fly with a client?  

Sparks Flying With a Current Client  

It is a bad idea for a lawyer and a client to engage in an intimate relationship. It’s also unethical. ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.8(j) provides that a “lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.” Model Rules of Prof’l Cond R. 1.8(j). The Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct do not expressly prohibit sexual relations between a lawyer and client. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court has sanctioned lawyers for inappropriate sexual relationships under other rules. For example, the Louisiana Supreme Court has suspended a lawyer for six months, with all but three months deferred, for having a consensual sexual relationship with a current client. According to the Court, the lawyer violated Rules 1.7(a)(2) (in which a conflict of interest exists because of a personal interest of the lawyer) and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice) because he had a sexual relationship with his client.  

Sparks Flying With Former Clients or Prospective Clients  

Neither the Model Rules of Professional Conduct nor the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit a lawyer from having an intimate relationship with a former or prospective client. Although presented with the opportunity to do so, the Louisiana Supreme Court has refused extend the prohibition against lawyer-client sexual relationships to former clients and prospective clients. But how long do you have to wait? There is no definitive time, but a useful guideline is to wait until the entire matter (and not just the representation) is over.  

The Takeaway 

Lawyers should exercise caution when personal relationships become intertwined with their professional relationships. This is because such relationships could present a conflict between the lawyer’s personal interest in the relationship and the prospective or former client’s interests. The Louisiana Supreme Court has disciplined lawyers when personal relationships have interfered with their ability to exercise independent professional judgment and to render candid advice. For example, the Court has disciplined lawyers for engaging in a sexual relationship with client, for appointing the lawyer’s wife as succession trustee over client’s trust, and for a lawyer who engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with client despite the existence of a preexisting relationship. Notably, in each of these discipline cases, the court concluded that the particular sexual relationship in issue substantially interfered with the lawyer’s professional responsibilities.  


Cupid brings love to those that he shoots with his bow and arrow. But Cupid’s arrow may bring more than just love to lawyers who feel the sparks flying with a current client—that is, professional discipline. Lawyers who want to continue practicing law should not engage in intimate relationships with current clients. As to former and prospective clients, you may not need to put out the sparks —but tread carefully. 

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