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Lawyers are regulated individuals, meaning that they have certain responsibilities and obligations, and must adhere to these, and regulatory rules, always. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) regulates practising solicitors in England and Wales, whilst the regulatory body for Chartered Legal Executives is the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). Solicitors are bound by ten mandatory principles, setting out the ethical requirements that must be followed both within and outside of professional conduct. These include lack of discrimination, protection of client money and assets, maintaining independence, and upholding the proper administration of justice and the rule of law. Furthermore, the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 lists the various duties a solicitor owes their clients, including keeping all information a client shares confidential except in extremely limited circumstances.
Before a lawyer takes on a new client, they must ensure they comply with the law. Government regulations stipulate that individuals need to be able to prove that they are who they say they are before they are able to instruct a lawyer, providing personal documentation such as a driving licence, passport or recent utility bill. Law firms must also comply with money laundering regulations, having in place procedures to identify and report suspicions as to the proceeds of crime.
Choosing a lawyer to act for you in relation to your family issue is an extremely personal choice, and those seeking legal representation are likely to consider several factors – such as location, reputation, and area of expertise – before seeking to formally instruct. There is no obligation, however, for lawyers to agree to act for a potential client. They may decline instructions due to workload, lack of experience in a niche area of law, or due to a perceived conflict of interest.
In a family law situation, even where separating parties are amicable and in agreement as to arrangements for the division of matrimonial assets and for children, this conflict of interests occurs. The role of a lawyer instructed in a family matter is to advise their client on potential courses of action about the best possible outcome for that individual, for their client to make an informed decision, and provide instructions on how they wish to proceed. Whilst a family lawyer can support the wishes of parties to resolve their issues amicably, they are not able to provide advice that forefronts the best interests of both parties in a separation, dissolution, or divorce – simply because those best interests are not the same – and therefore cannot act for them both.
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles