Court refuses injunction restraining solicitor consulted by husband from acting for wife in divorce proceedings

George Bentall

The case of S v S (Application to Prevent Solicitor Acting) [2017] EWHC 2660 (Fam) concerned an application for an injunction to prevent a solicitor from acting for a wife in divorce proceedings when the solicitor had previously met with the agent of the husband as part of a beauty parade. The High Court rejected the application for an injunction on the facts of this particular case.

A Court will usually grant an injunction to restrain a solicitor from acting where they are holding confidential or privileged information that is or may be relevant to the matter on which the solicitor is presently instructed by the new client with an adverse interest to their former client. The court will intervene unless there is no real risk of the information being disclosed.

The key background facts to this case were:

  • The husband’s agent met with 3 potential law firms as part of a “beauty parade” on 17 November 2015.
  • The husband formally retained one of the above law firms on 23 November 2015.
  • The agent of the husband then met with 3 additional law firms on 30 November 2015 as part of a further “beauty parade”.
  • The wife instructed one of the firms that had been consulted on 30 November 2015 to act for her in subsequent divorce proceedings.

The Court found:

  • The later meetings on 30 November 2015 were, in part, motivated by a desire to try and “conflict out” certain law firms so that the wife could not retain them rather than by a desire to hold a genuine consultation with such firms.
  • It was unlikely that confidential material was disclosed during the later beauty parades or that any privileged information or advice arose since the husband had already retained his preferred firm of solicitors by that stage.

Accordingly, the Court refused to grant an injunction restraining the solicitors from acting for the wife.

The decision is a useful reminder that solicitors can, in principle, be prevented from acting for a new client in circumstances where they have already discussed the case with the other side as part of a beauty parade. However, where a party is meeting various law firms with the aim of “conflicting” them from a particular case, the court may decide not to grant an injunction.

S v S (Application to Prevent Solicitor Acting) [2017] EWHC 2660 (Fam)

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