Can One Attorney Do It All???

Attorney GLEN A. NORTON ...

Can One Attorney Do It All??? ... An attorney will attempt to be loyal to only one person, his/her client. If the attorney has represented both parties and could have obtained information that could be used against a person, he or she should not represent another person who could benefit from that information. That is a conflict of interest. For that reason, an attorney should not try to represent both parties to a divorce.

Although when a couple comes to an attorney and thinks they have an amicable divorce, there may be things they do not understand about their rights, or they may not be adequately protecting one person's rights. If the attorney seeks to represent both people, how can he/she tell the short changed person that he or she is paying too much to end the marriage? Saying that to one person is clearly against the other person's interests. This is a classic conflict of interests and should be avoided by all attorneys.

Therefore one attorney should represent one person. If the other person feels they know what they are doing, they may review what was written by the attorney or have another attorney review it with them, and decide it is fair enough. Then they can sign the settlement. That second person is not represented and is not protected by the first attorney. They are called a PRO SE party, or self represented. Many cases settle in this way, and for less attorney’s fees expense.

The one reasonable exception to this is MEDIATION. With a Rule 114 Qualified Neutral Mediator you have a person (usually an attorney) who is there to help both parties to come to an agreement. This neutral is not there to give legal advice but instead to direct negotiations and maintain a record of the agreements. Although the neutrals are trained to maintain a fair discussion, if you feel the other person in your relationship always gets the better deal between you, you may also feel that way after mediation. It is possible to give away too much to obtain an agreement and it is possible to feel that you gave too much when you made a deal if you do not have a person who is giving an evaluative opinion of the case as you have in an early neutral evaluation through the court system.