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DECISIONS n LEGAL PROFESSION it is not a breach of the standard of care for an attorney under a signed, precisely drafted consent agreement to limit the scope of his representation not to perform such services in the course of representing a matrimonial client that he might otherwise perform absent such a consent, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, ruled on April 8. Lerner v. Laufer, No. A-2079-01T2. Lynne C. Lerner and her husband engaged a family friend, an attorney, to mediate a property-settlement agreement for their divorce. Lerner then hired William F. Laufer under a consent agreement to represent her before she signed the agreement and during the rest of the divorce proceedings. The agreement was incorporated into the divorce decree. But, displeased with the provisions related to whether a company she and her husband owned would be taken public, Lerner sued Laufer for legal malpractice. A trial court dismissed the action. Affirming, the intermediate-level appeals court acknowledged the tension a lawyer faces between the public policy of encouraging mediated settlements and fully independent representation in adversarial proceedings. But the panel found no support for the proposition that attorneys practicing matrimonial law should be denied the right to assert as a defense to claims of malpractice that they were engaged under a precisely drafted consent limiting the scope of representation. The court disapproved of several things Laufer did, but none of his actions resulted in any damage to Lerner, it said.

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