Further to my blog on Friday, our family friend in need has taken the step to move out of the marital home. Whilst I have overheard snippets of the phone calls between her and my wife, I have been very careful not to offer advice. Why not? I hear you ask. Surely that’s my job as a divorce lawyer.
Isn’t this the ideal time for her to have a friend who is a divorce lawyer? Well it is but I am also very friendly with the husband. It wouldn’t be right for me to start advising her and not him. What would I do if tomorrow he phones me and asks for advice? I am trying to stay clear of advising either of them but naturally given my experience it may be that they may want some general advice which I can help them with. However there is clearly a conflict of interest having known both for many years.
In the office I would do a conflict of interest check for every new client. This is to check the Firm’s database to see if the Firm, not just me, has acted for the new clients partner either currently or in the past, not just in relation to family work but any other transaction. If we have then it could be the case that I cannot advise the client unless I have the permission of the partner.
It is very tricky when two friends want advice. At times like this however it is good to be in the profession and have knowledge of my peers and their characters so that I can match their personalities with that of my friends. I know how a referral reflects upon you as an individual and know that my legal colleagues will each look after my friends at this time and that hopefully they will both be speaking to me in the future.