The story we ran today about the solicitor potentially compromised by a relationship he began with a client caught up in an acrimonius contact dispute (see link below) raises interesting conduct issues.
Such relationships are rare but not unknown, of course - a couple of years ago an American lawyer was suspended indefinitely after actually billing his client for the time he spent with her in this non-legal capacity.
As you'll see in the story, family law group Resolution is very firm on what should happen in such a situation, even though the SRA Code of Conduct does not prohibit it.
It was an issue I first looked into back some years ago, after the American Bar Association introduced a model rule that prevented a lawyer from having a sexual relationship with a client unless they were already in it before they became a client.
You can read the feature I commissioned for the Law Society Gazette here. Sadly the online version does not include the accompanying cartoon, which I still think is the best one I ever commissioned. It featured a male lawyer in bed with his female client, asking her to sign a 'Client relationship waiver'. The woman replies: "This isn't what I meant by protection."
The solicitor was instructed in September 2014 and they began a relationship six weeks later. At the outset the mother sold her car and paid the solicitor the proceeds of £20,000 for his legal services. Since then, she has incurred some £300,000 of legal fees, all unpaid. The couple has travelled abroad, once with the children. The solicitor spent Christmas in the family home with the mother and children and is “a regular overnight visitor to the home”. He has also been supporting her financially. Jackson J said: “Instead of the client paying the solicitor, in this case it is the other way round. The propriety of the mother’s solicitor acting for her in the circumstances has been referred to the Solicitors Regulation Authority by the solicitor himself and by the father’s solicitors.”