You may not act for a client if there is a conflict of interest, or significant risk of a conflict. This is where:
- your duty to act in the best interests of two or more different clients may conflict – a client conflict, or
- your own interests and those of a client may conflict – an own interest conflict
For example, you cannot act for both the claimant and the defendant in litigation, as this would be a client conflict. You cannot act for a buyer who is purchasing a property that you own, as this would be an own interest conflict.
There are some exceptions, which are explained in the practice note on conflict of interests.
The SRA Code covers the controls that you must have in place to identify and assess potential conflicts of interest. You should check for any potential conflict before taking on a new client.
Checking for conflicts
At an early stage, such as before an initial interview, you should ask the client:
- their name, address and telephone number
- the area of law they need advice on
- the name of anyone else involved in the matter, such as an opponent in a civil litigation case, or a spouse in a divorce
If this information shows that there is a conflict of interest then you should not go ahead with an interview.
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