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Resolution backs ‘one lawyer, two clients’ divorce model

By John Hyde >>

(7 July 2022)

Family justice body Resolution has said it will unveil a new model of working which allows a single lawyer to advise both parties in a divorce or separation.

Resolution Together will follow the ‘one lawyer, two clients’ approach that has already been adopted by the likes of Mills & Reeve, Withers, Simpson Millar and O’Sullivan Family Law.

The organisation says its new model, likely to be launched later this summer, will work within current regulations around acting where there is a risk of conflict, following talks with the SRA about compliance.

The trigger for the changing approach in family law has been the implementation of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act in April, which allowed couples to make joint applications to end a marriage. That appears to have taken much of the ‘sting’ out of breakups, with couples keen to reduce unnecessary conflict and in some cases work with just one adviser.

Resolution members can learn more from a webinar next week and the group is developing guidance, training and other resources for those who want to test the model.

Juliet Harvey, national chair of Resolution, said: ‘Increasingly, clients are expecting, or in some cases demanding, new approaches that we haven’t been able to offer in the past. With the introduction of no-fault divorce and, for the first time, the opportunity to make a joint application that came with it, demand for this type of approach is only going to increase.

‘Indeed, many firms are already providing, or looking to provide, this approach: that’s why we want to provide a way of working under the Resolution banner, in keeping with our code of practice.’

Resolution says it has liaised with the SRA to ensure the model operates within current regulations. Solicitors cannot act if there is an own-interest conflict or a significant risk of one. The rules prevent solicitors from acting for both sides in a litigation or dispute, but acting for both parties is allowed where there is no significant risk of a conflict arising.

SRA guidance states: ‘You must always be sure that it is in each client’s best interests for you to act. Bear in mind that if you were acting for just one client, you normally would be negotiating their position and putting forward solutions that favour their interests over the other client. So by acting for both, you may be limiting the service that you would provide.’

(Courtesy: The Law Society Gazette)