You’re faced with a legal situation – but can a family member be your lawyer and may they give you legal advice? It is usually a question of suitability rather than legality.
Generally, no law prohibits lawyers from representing their family members in courts, but you should know of the possible gray areas.
This article discusses the possible ethical issues regarding lawyers representing family members. We’ll also assess whether hiring a family member to represent you in court is advisable.
Can a Family Member Be Your Lawyer in a Case?
Yes. Lawyers are allowed to represent anyone in court. It follows that they can represent family members. They can only be restricted if there’s an apparent conflict of interest and in the event of other extraordinary circumstances. Generally, courts won’t interfere with your choice of legal representation.
Is It Advisable to Have a Family Member as Your Lawyer?
While having a family member as your lawyer is permissible, it is not always advisable. Lawyers have a duty and responsibility to offer unbiased and objective representation. However, the possibility of emotional conflicts may interfere with a lawyer’s ability to discharge their duties properly.
Before agreeing to represent a family member, a lawyer needs to consider the potential emotional conflicts that may arise. It isn’t uncommon for a lawyer’s ability to provide dispassionate legal counsel to be impaired when they are emotionally involved in a case.
Again, it’s difficult to say no to family. But it should be easier for you to say no if you don’t have enough time to look into the matter or if it is outside the scope of your practice area.
A lawyer who takes a case involving their spouse, children, or family member should establish a professional demeanor and interaction for their client to take their advice seriously. For the best results, a lawyer representing a family member should be upfront with the facts and chances of success.
They shouldn’t try to impress them by concealing the hard truth. Family members should be treated like any other clients, and they need to understand the viability of their case sooner rather than later.
Reasons Why Family Shouldn’t Provide You With Legal Representation
While it’s common for an individual to contract a family member for their legal services, sometimes it is simply a bad idea. So why is that? Usually, lawyers must passionately represent their clients. To do this, a lawyer must feel that they have all the facts about the case.
However, people in certain situations often find it difficult to tell the whole truth about their situation. With family members, it becomes even harder to get the details of a case. Imagine a scenario where one has to tell their sibling or uncle about their inner secrets of failing marriage.
Whenever individuals hold back some of their dirty laundry, they put their lawyers at a disadvantage since they don’t have the complete set of facts upon which they can apply the law.
Another factor is that lawyers like to plan and have a strategy, even if that means confronting their clients. However, arguments with a family member who is now a client can damage their relationship.
Ethical Issues of Representing Family Members
There is nothing unethical in having a family member as your lawyer in a case. However, such lawyers should strive to remain in the ethical zones when representing relatives. For instance, they should avoid initiating an unintended client-attorney relationship by advising outside stipulated business hours.
Lawyers should also ensure that the working relationship with their family members remains confidential and transparent for the best chance of success. Most importantly, the lawyer should keep the secret of being related to the client in court. If they can’t, passing the case to another lawyer is better. What’s more, clients should understand that both sides are required by law to uphold the regulations regarding legal representation.
Exceptions to Representing Relatives
Sometimes, having a family member as your lawyer can be an outright conflict of interest. Some of the circumstances in which a family member can’t be your lawyer include:
- The result of the case at hand will benefit the lawyer monetarily. For instance, a lawyer can’t represent a family member in a case involving the partitioning of joint family property or assets they share.
- The lawyer is a possible witness to a case involving the family member wanting to hire them as their legal representation.
- The case involving the family member is to be heard in a court whose presiding judge is related to the lawyer, either as a nephew, son-in-law, grandfather, first cousin, or any other family relation.
Benefits and Downsides To Having a Family Member as Your Lawyer
Before hiring a family member as your lawyer, looking at the situation through the lens of pros and cons is essential. Of course, some benefits accrue to those seeking legal representation from a family member. Similarly, there are downsides to establishing a lawyer-client relationship with a family member.
– Benefits of Having a Family Member as Your Lawyer
If you choose a relative to represent you, then both you and your relative may enjoy some of the following benefits:
- You will have utmost faith and confidence in the person representing you, which can help you achieve the best results.
- It’s a good way of building a client base, which can help a lawyer get started in their practice. After all, what better way to start other than with those close to you?
- You might obtain legal representation at a discounted rate. It’s not uncommon for people to seek legal representation from family members if they don’t have enough money to hire another lawyer. However, the lawyer and client need to discuss the details of legal fees payments to keep the relationship professional.
– Downsides To Hiring a Family Member as Your Lawyer
One possible drawback to representing a family member is that your relationship may interfere with how you go about the case. However, this can be avoided if you can keep your emotions in check and conduct the process impartially and rationally for the best possible verdict.
Also, emotions can run high in cases where a lawyer represents their family member, especially if they involve strenuous legal proceedings. Additionally, you may no longer be in good graces with the other family members if you lose a case in which you represented another family member.
To avoid these and other issues, it is vital that you logically evaluate whether the risks associated with representing a family member outweigh the benefits.
– Can a Lawyer Represent a Friend in Court?
Just like lawyers can represent their family members in court, a friend who is a lawyer can also offer you legal representation. The law does not restrict who a lawyer can represent. However, you should avoid hiring your friend if the lawyer-client relationship touches some ethical gray areas or if there is a possible conflict of interest.
– Can I Represent Myself?
It is possible to represent yourself, although it isn’t advisable. Some people decide to represent themselves if they feel they can handle the case independently. For some, the lack of money for legal fees in civil cases forces them to represent themselves. You can also expect to represent yourself in a small claims court.
– Do You Have To Be a Lawyer To Represent Someone in Court?
Yes. You must be a licensed lawyer to represent the interests of others in court. Besides having the education, training, and experience, lawyers must be licensed by a state agency of any of the states to practice law in court after passing a bar exam.
The law doesn’t restrict you when choosing your legal representation. However, can a family member be your lawyer? In most cases, you’ll be allowed to retain the legal services of a family member who is a lawyer. We’ve discussed the possible issues with having a family member as your lawyer and the potential benefits and downsides. Below is a run-down of the main points:
- You can have your family member as a lawyer, as no law forbids lawyers from representing their relatives.
- Having a family member as your lawyer is not always advisable, as these ties could hinder them from discharging their roles and responsibilities diligently.
- While representing a family member may have benefits, lawyers should also consider the possible downsides. If they outweigh the benefits, letting another lawyer handle the case is better.
- There’s nothing unethical in representing a family member as a lawyer. However, it is not permissible to offer legal representation to a relative if there is an obvious conflict of interest.
If you’re considering hiring a lawyer who is a family member in your case, you should consider whether there is a possible conflict of interest. If there is none, be prepared to cooperate with your lawyer and give them as much information on the case as they need. You could be sabotaging yourself by letting emotions get in the way and failing to provide all the facts of your case.
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