There are many ways for a conflict of interest to arise for an attorney, but for your purposes, I think the conflict of interest you're asking about is the situation where the attorney cannot fulfill his or her duty of loyalty to the client because the client's interest or objective is in conflict with the desires of the attorney.
Put differently, any situation where the attorney would benefit or be happy that the client loses is a conflict of interest. Examples include:
- The client is suing a family member of the attorney.
- The client is suing a company the attorney has invested in.
- The client is suing another client of the attorney.
There are many other ways a conflict arises, but I think what I've presented here addresses your concern.
You do not present enough information for anyone to really say conclusively whether your attorney has a conflict of interest because she is friends with your ex-spouse's family member. I would tend to think that there is no conflict of interest merely for being friends with the family member. But more facts might change that. How close are they? What is your case about? How close is the family member to your ex-spouse? And is your ex-spouse the other party to this case?
As for the other information you provide, generally the client decides the objectives of the case and the attorney uses her best judgement to achieve it. So in matters of strategy, it is hard to second guess your attorney. Just because the attorney is not pursing the matter in a way that you think is best does not mean she is doing a bad job. Presumably, she knows things about legal strategy that you don't. Also, there are rules of evidence that make it so not everything you want to talk about can be discussed in court.
However, as the client, you are the boss, so if you are really upset you should discuss this matter with your attorney. If anything, you can always go out and hire a new attorney.
Best of luck.
This is an incomplete answer written in response to the limited facts provided. It is intended as a courtesy to better inform the reader about his or her possible rights and potential courses of action; it is not intended as formally researched legal advice or as an agreement to enter into an attorney-client relationship.