Here is a divorce legal malpractice case from the Divorce Law Journal which illustrates the "privity" question.
"Issue and Holding:
Whether an attorney owed any duty to an opposing party in a divorce case. The Court held no, the attorney owed no duty under the facts of this case.
Baker filed for divorce from her husband, Collins, in 1989. A divorce decree, which referenced their Property Settlement Agreement, was entered in 1990. As part of the Agreement, Collins agreed to pay Baker $500,000. A balloon payment of $300,000 was due by January 1, 2002 and the remaining $200,000 due in ten annual installments of $20,000 continuing through January 1, 2001. The Agreement also provided that if the balloon payment was paid prior to the due date, the other payments would be forgiven. As security for the payments, Baker was given liens on all of Collin’s stock holdings of closely held corporations. Collin was to “execute all necessary documents to effectuate these liens” and “the Certificates shall be held by Ronald Coombs, Attorney.” Coombs represented Collins in the divorce proceedings and in other matters.
Despite the Agreement, Collins never gave Coombs any stock certificates before Collins died in September 1999. Coombs asked Collins for the certificates, but Collins never delivered them. Shortly before Collin’s death, Baker discovered that he had sold his interest in his largest corporation in 1992 without perfecting a lien in his stock holdings and making the agreed upon transfer to Baker. Baker did not know what happened to the other corporations, but none of them were listed as assets of his estate. Baker did not know whether any liens were ever prepared and she could not recall inquiring as to the liens or certificates prior to Collin’s death.
In November 1999, Baker filed a proof of claim against Collin’s estate for monies owed to her under the Agreement. The estate objected. Therefore in December 1999, she filed a complaint against the estate, Collin’s widow, and Coombs. Baker alleged that properties were transferred out of Collin’s name, prior to his death, in a deliberate attempt to prevent the payment of monies he owed to her and to reduce the inheritance of his child. She also alleged that Coombs failed to follow the terms of the Agreement in not holding the stock certificates and allowing Collin’s to sell his businesses without taking action to assure that Baker be paid what she was owed.
Baker was awarded a judgment against the estate. Baker and Coombs then filed cross motions for summary judgment. The trial court concluded that Coombs did not commit professional negligence and that he was not personally liable for the monies Collins owed Baker. The court held that Coombs signed the Agreement only in his capacity as Collin’s counsel, and not as a party to the Agreement. Therefore, only Collins and his estate could be held liable. Baker appealed. "