Slept with Client

 I have slept with a female client of mine. (I am male.) I do not think I jeopardized her case, and there were no witnesses. This affair continued for 5 months out of the first year of her now 1yr+ legal battle for the custody of her children. Things are not going well for her. Am I somehow culpable?

This sounds like a legal/ethical question rather than the kind that we deal with here at LCL (see Home page for description of our services). When you say that things are not going well for her, we don’t know whether you mean legally/financially or psychologically. If it’s the latter, we can comment.

While our services are geared toward lawyers, we who write this column are mental health clinicians. We don’t know the rules about lawyers having social/sexual relations with clients. In our own field, it is strictly prohibited. The idea is that having any kind of “dual relationship” with a client is likely to compromise the objectivity of the service provider and the quality of assistance. Like teachers, psychotherapists, and clergy, legal professionals are in a position of power with clients, who rely on them for guidance through unknown terrain. In that sense, adding a sexual component can be a form of exploitation of the client (even though in many cases the client may be more than willing, and the professional may have only caring motives). What we have also learned from our clients is that, at least in some cases, clients may afterward feel guilty, ashamed, injured, worthless, etc. In those situations, it is advisable for the client to seek mental health assistance (which may be more difficult in the sense that they now feel more vulnerable). Certain clients and professionals may be more drawn to this kind of dual relationship than others, for example, those who have been subject to poor boundaries (such as sexual abuse) in their families of origin.

To ask legal ethics questions, you may wish to visit the ethics sections of various web sites, such as:
§ Mass. Bar Association § Boston Bar
§ Mass. Board of Bar Overseers

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