A solicitor’s role is to provide the highest level of service to their clients, whilst ensuring that they maintain a high standard of professional integrity when doing so. The most important and ethical consideration for every solicitor is the duty to act in the best interest of your clients. But, one question that often arises for solicitors is ‘can you act for both sides?’. The short answer for most solicitors is no. As this would be classed as a ‘conflict of interests’ since you are unable to act in the best interest of both clients.
Conflict of interest
First of all, it’s important to consider the potential conflicts of interest that could arise from acting on behalf of both sides in a legal matter. A conflict of interest can arise when a solicitor is unable to act in the best interests of one client, without compromising the interests of the other client.
For example, imagine that a solicitor is approached by two people who are involved in a property dispute. One person claims to own the property, while the other claims to have a right to use it. If the solicitor were to represent both parties, they would be caught in a conflict of interest. In turn, they would not advise one client to settle the dispute, because that would be against the interests of the other client. But they could also not advise one client to sue the other, because that would be against the interests of the other client.
Deciding on one client
If a solicitor were to be approached by clients on each side of the legal matter, they should choose just one client to represent. Declining to represent the one client, and advising them to seek legal advice somewhere else. This ensures that avoid the appearance of impropriety. Whilst also ensuring that they would be acting in the best interests of their client.
It is worth noting, however, that there are some situations where a solicitor may be able to represent both sides of a dispute. This is known as “dual representation,” and it is only possible in very limited circumstances.
For example, if both parties in a dispute are fully informed and have given their consent to the solicitor representing both sides, then it may be possible to do so. This is only possible if there is no conflict of interest and if the solicitor is able to act impartially. For example, in a family law matter where both parties are amicable and agree to work with the same solicitor.
Even in situations where dual representation is possible, it is important for the solicitor to be transparent and open about the potential risks and conflicts involved. They must also ensure that both parties are fully informed of their rights and the potential outcomes of the case.
Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct
It is also important to consider the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Code of Conduct, which sets out rules and guidelines for solicitors. According to the SRA Code of Conduct, a solicitor must avoid conflicts of interest and ensure that they act in the best interests of their clients. If a conflict of interest arises, a solicitor must take steps to manage or avoid it.
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