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The Sopranos Rule

Every so often, certain legal matters become infamous. If a given case enters the national consciousness through its connection with a celebrity, it naturally becomes fodder for conversation in legal circles. Such is also the case as it pertains to our favorite courtroom scenes on the large and small screens. Who doesn’t love watching Marisa Tomei as an expert witness in My Cousin Vinny?

Fans of the HBO series, The Sopranos, may instantly recognize what has come to be known as The Sopranos Rule. In the show, main character Tony Soprano seeks consultation with a number of the best divorce attorneys in North Jersey for the express purpose of preventing them from being able to represent his wife Carmela. Legal professionals often refer themselves in such situations as being “conflicted out.” We get asked about this scenario often by clients, potential clients and, yes, even from curious family members and friends. Is the Sopranos Rule a real thing?

Yes. The Sopranos Rule is a Real Thing.

The Delaware Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct (or DLRPC) has clear rules regarding how attorneys should treat confidential information as it relates to current clients and former clients. In many instances, these rules are in place to help define conflicts of interest with the expectation that attorneys like us will avoid representing any client in an unethical manner. Accordingly, if Spouse A meets with Attorney X and Attorney Z and chooses Attorney Z for representation, chances are good that Spouse A still discussed sensitive information with Attorney X. Furthermore, Attorney X likely offered Spouse A advice and options regarding how to best proceed with his or her divorce. Given that, it is best that Attorney X not represent Spouse B in this case.

The Sopranos Rule is also why many divorce attorneys (ours included) do not offer free consultations. Assuming that there are only a finite number of sought-after family attorneys in a given area, a spouse could schedule free consultations with all of the best firms in town and conflict out the best attorneys — thus preventing his or her spouse from using those firms. If you have questions about divorce or any family law matter, don’t hesitate to call our offices today.