Representing Closely Held Entities: Conflicts of Interest and Fiduciary Duty to a Company and its Principals

Documenting Corporate Authority; Avoiding Pitfalls When a Dispute Arises; Implied Attorney-Client Relationships; ABA Model Rules

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Thursday, September 28, 2017

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926
Program Materials

This CLE webinar will examine practical, legal, and ethical issues confronting counsel when representing a closely held entity, including potential conflicts of interest and fiduciary duties owed to the company and its shareholders, members, officers or directors. The panel will also discuss best practices for handling disputes between principals and guidance provided in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (the ABA Rules).


When counsel represents a closely held entity (a corporation, LLC or partnership in which there are a small number of owners and a substantial overlap between ownership and management), it can be difficult to discern whether conflicts of interest exist or where a fiduciary duty is owed.

Corporate counsel’s first duty is to the company, but principals who retain counsel may view that attorney as their own. Counsel must clearly understand who is authorized to take action (instruct counsel) for the company and confirm that necessary board actions and other corporate formalities are followed.

Even after counsel has delineated the scope of representation, intracompany disputes may change the dynamic. Practitioners must continually identify their actual client(s) under an attorney-client relationship, disclose any conflicts of interest to those parties, and obtain a conflict waiver if appropriate. Adopted in some form in most states, the ABA Rules are instructive in that regard.

Listen as our authoritative panel discusses the potential pitfalls of representing a closely held entity, including corporate governance and conflicts concerns when representing a company and its principals. The panel will also examine the ABA Rules and how they might apply in certain fact scenarios.



  1. Identifying the client—corporation/company vs. members, shareholders, officers, directors
  2. Engagement letters—importance of disclosure and acknowledgement of representation
  3. Documenting “duly authorized” officers
  4. Observing corporate formalities
  5. ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct
  6. Special circumstances creating a duty to non-client constituents
  7. Best practices when disputes arise between constituents


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • When can counsel represent a corporate entity as well as its constituent shareholders, members, officers or directors?
  • How should counsel respond to actions or instructions from an officer of the entity when counsel does not think the action is in the best interest of the company?
  • When is an attorney-client relationship established under the ABA Rules?
  • What steps should counsel take when a dispute arises between shareholders, officers or directors of a company?


Fuerst, Steven
Steven B. Fuerst

Partner and Co-chair, Business Divorce Practice
Lowenstein Sandler

Mr. Fuerst is Co-Chair of the Firm's Business Divorce Practice. He brings substantial experience as a general...  |  Read More

Bagger, Paula
Paula M. Bagger
Law Office of Paula M. Bagger

Ms. Bagger has significant experience helping clients resolve a broad range of commercial and business disputes. She...  |  Read More

Nadel, Heidi
Heidi A. Nadel

Founder and Principal
Cross Nadel

With nearly two decades of sophisticated and diverse trial and appellate experience, Ms. Nadel concentrates her...  |  Read More

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