Can a Lawyer Defend a Family Member | Potential Conflicts of Interest


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Most people may think that it may be a good option to have free advice from a lawyer, or legal advice. But a question arises: can a lawyer defend a family member in court or out of court. The answer to this question is yes. The court does not intervene in permitting the family member to opt for a lawyer to defend the case. However, there are some exemptions, dependent on the situation.

So if you want to know the details in which type of situations and how a lawyer can defend the family members, keep reading this valuable piece of information.

When it is Right to Defend the Family Member

Can a Lawyer Defend a Family Member

In case you are a specialist and work is not involved in the family sensitivities and emotions, it is probably ok. For instance, if a lawyer has a reputation for dealing with the driving cases in the community, it means that what the lawyer is doing for his relative is irrelevant.

Similarly, if the project is navigating from the registry or a government system, it can lead to a problem. Therefore, those who are dealing with real estate matters and making a lot of sales, and purchasing houses can perfectly handle the legal aspect of purchasing a house for a relative.

One very important thing is to avoid extremely contentious litigation, especially when there is a division of family interests. It will be inappropriate for the family member to litigate and tend to the custody conflict. The court will have real doubts about the lawyer’s objectivity and independence.

About the Potential Conflicts of Interest

Can a Lawyer Defend a Family Member

Simon Chester, the counsel for regulatory and conflict at Gowling WLG, says that most regulators do not stop acting and defending family members. However, they know that the lawyers avoid negligence and are very competent. 

The Canadian Bar Association Code of professional behaviour also handles the broad aspects of perceived and real interest disputes. But they do not specify when a lawyer can defend the family member in court. Some law firms and societies identified consider when conflicts of emotions and interests can arise with friends and family members.

Lawyers can give legal advice to friends, spouses, and family members and defend them in court. The code of conduct in society also says that the lawyer is not a dispute for interest because the lawyer is representing and defending the family member or friend in the court for their case. 

However, it is also important to indicate that if the lawyer is very close to the client, the lawyer cannot be objective and professional. In such circumstances, the lawyer should not act as a counsel and defend the case of the relative. 

According to the Ontario law society, the lawyer should be honest and loyal in his deeds, advise his clients, and prevent situations where there is a chance of conflict.

When the lawyer is defending a friend or a family member, there will be a conflict of interest because the personal relationship can interfere with the lawyer’s duty to offer disinterested professional advice and objectives to the client.

The law society of British Columbia also defines how the lawyers’ judgment can account for who has a close relationship like a sexual or any other relation with the client. 

Some tips for lawyers in defending the case of the family members 

If the lawyer plans to defend the family member in court, the following are important tips.

  • Make a schedule for meeting to negotiate with the client about the case
  • Don’t communicate with the family member about the case during the family gatherings
  • Maintain and carry on your usual practice standards
  • Open up the family matter and write the retainer letter for the case
  • Keep an eye on the potential conflict of interests
  • Conversate about the case how the proceedings of the case are going on
  • Discuss the fee payment, whether it will be at the start, and discount the fees
  • First, get permission from the firm, whether you can defend your any relative in any case
  • If the lawyer is doing o sole practice, check the competitors in this relevant field

Chester says if you plan to defend and represent the family member, you have to formalize your relationship in court.

So what do you think that defending and representing your family members can be a risky deal for a lawyer? 

It is not a good option for a beginner lawyer to act on behalf of the family member, even if the regulators’ rules do not specifically prohibit him from doing so.

Suppose the lawyer deals with the injury claim of the personal family member and is guilty of mishandling and negligence of the case. The lawsuit cannot cover the damages because the payment will directly go to the family member.

Another risk in defending the family member is that just for accommodation, the lawyer may take the case and the legal matters outside the court besides their capacity.

In some cases, the lawyer has pressure from the family members to defend them and handle their case in which the lawyer may not be the specialist. Therefore, it is advisable that the lawyers not fight and defend their clients in the new areas.

Other possible risks in defending the family member

Any such lawyer defending the relative in the case greatly impacts this relationship. If it is a private matter, it will be quite challenging for him to deal with them in social situations. It will help if you do not think that hiring a lawyer to defend the family member can be the best option for you who can help you in your case. 

Some awkward situations regarding payments

Defending the family member in court can result in some awkward situations in terms of payments. The friends and family members have great expectations to discount the payment of the cases. In some cases, the family members can delay the payments or not pay the fees. But of course, it is very hard to hit the relative out of the ground and refuse them for any reason. 

There can be huge informality on the lawyer’s side because of the close relationship. There may be no openings of the files, the lawyer’s assistants may not take the steps for the case proceedings, and the instructions and the agreements not are in writing. 

Moreover, the lawyer who favours his client or defends his relative for free or at a lesser rate also does not give valuable advice compared to those paying the full fee to him.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a lawyer represent his relatives?

Yes, the lawyers can represent the relatives and family members in court. Offering dispassionate advice cannot be a good option when feelings and emotions are involved. That is why the lawyers should always think long and hard before accepting any relative situation.

How can you differentiate between an advocate and a notary?

Lawyers are the individuals who go to law school to get a law education and pass the bar exam. An attorney is one who has no education related to law but also practices in the court and acts as a practitioner in the court.

Is the attorney higher than the lawyer?

A lawyer earns a law degree from law school. On the other hand, an attorney is an individual who has no education regarding law but goes to court to learn the ins and outs of the law and practice in one or more states.

Can a lawyer represent you in court?

When there is the involvement of the people in the court, they can choose to be represented by a lawyer or represent themselves in the court. There are some types of courts involving criminal offences in which the lawyer must represent people.

What are the disadvantages of being a lawyer?

The disadvantages of being a lawyer include the lawyers’ working hours are very long. You do not have a life apart from work. Clients of the lawyers are very demanding. The working environment of the lawyers is very bad.


Yes, the court has permission from the lawyers to represent the family members to defend them, but this is not always the case. Because lawyers should advise their clients in a good manner, however, emotions and feelings can prevent them from doing their duty.

While defending the family member in court, the lawyer should often think about this issue. The lawyers have to set the boundaries, which can be difficult with close relatives and family members.  

For the lawyers, the downside in defending the family member is that sometimes the relatives do not make payment for the case or want a discount on the lawyer’s fee; for these reasons, it’s not a good option to defend the family member’s court.


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