- Conflicts of interest can arise at any stage during the course of the solicitor’s retainer.
- Acting under a conflict is a breach of the solicitor’s fiduciary duty to the client and the Solicitors’ Rules.
- The consequences can be significant and may result in a claim being made against the solicitor.
Circumstances often arise where it appears expedient for solicitors to act for both sides of a transaction or for multiple parties in litigation. Whilst parties may initially be attracted by the practical benefits of common representation, unforeseen incidents in the course of a matter could mean that the parties’ interests diverge or come into conflict with the solicitors’ commercial, legal or reputational interests.
Circumstances that may involve a conflict include:
- a solicitor borrowing money from a client;
- acting for both sides of a conveyancing transaction;
- acting in litigation for co-defendants who might wish to bring claims for contribution against each other, for example, acting for a company and each of its directors; and
- acting against a former client when the solicitors might have confidential information relating to the former client.