Are Lawyers Allowed to Represent Family Members?

February 2, 2021 Off By Michael

Almost every lawyer has been there. A friend is looking forward to filing a divorce or domestic abuse case and reaches out to you for help. Yes, it’s okay to represent a relative, friend, or family member in court, but sometimes most lawyers take reservations. 

Most attorneys question what if they lose the case or involve a disagreement with a family member who is also their client. 

“As a lawyer, the decision to represent a family member in court is something you cannot take for granted,” says Sima Najma, a family and immigration barrister in London. Before you agree to represent your family or friend in court, you should consider these factors:

1. Privacy 

It may sound awkward representing a family member or relative in court because they may not be willing to disclose all the critical information you need for the case. 

You are likely to inquire about your clients’ income, criminal history, health information, and other issues that they may not be willing to share with you. Therefore, before you agree to represent your family member, you should ask them if they are free to share such sensitive information with you. 

2. Independency 

Apart from conflict of interest, another issue that comes up when representing a family member is independence. That means you are not likely to give honest, objective, and independent opinion when handling the case. Your ability to provide honest opinions about the case is greatly affected when you take a family member’s case.  

You have an emotional connection with the family member and maintaining a professional distance is almost impossible. This is going to affect your judgment and opinion. As a lawyer, the law requires you to give honest and candid advice to your clients. However, when the client is a family member, being honest becomes challenging because of the emotional connection and conflict of interest in the case.

3. Payment 

Most lawyers are paid hourly and charge hundreds of bucks per hour of service. If the case you are handling is a bit complicated and requires a lot of time, it means you are likely to charge higher legal fees. It becomes challenging to approach a family member with such an invoice. When the legal fees are a bit high, some family members are likely to contest paying. In this case, you run into loss because you won’t sue your family for bills not paid.

4. Lawyer-client relationship 

When a case is ongoing, you should not discuss it with your client in public. However, this may not be the case when you take on a family member’s file.

A friend or family member is likely to visit you anytime. They are always free to discuss anything with you, and that means they can start talking about the case when you are having dinner or out to party. Sometimes you may be out with your friends, and your family member starts to discuss the case with you in public.

Family members are always close and free to discuss issues whenever they feel. This makes it challenging to maintain personal relationships and professional attorney-client relations. 

Final Thoughts 

As an attorney, nothing stops you from representing family members in court. However, it’s worth noting that this will often come with challenges. If you don’t feel comfortable handling your family members’ case, you can refer the case to another competitive lawyer or turn down the case. 

In case you proceed to take the case, you should always maintain the normal practice standards. Discuss all the client relationship issues, conflict of interest, payment, and time frames clearly to the client or family member to ensure transparency.