Defusing the no-win scenario

“I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.”

Captain James T. Kirk, USS Enterprise

For those not familiar with Star Trek, the ‘Kobayashi Maru’ is a test taken by Starfleet cadets, via a computer-simulated rescue in space.

The computer is programmed so that there is no way the cadet can win, being a test of character rather than ability. Captain Kirk is the only one who ever passed it – by hacking the computer and programming an escape route.

Tests of character occur in the legal profession all the time, especially when a matter gets to the point where the solicitors for each party disagree on an ethical point – often around whether or not one of them is in conflict and should recuse themselves.

In such circumstances the solicitors may agree generally on the facts, but – quite reasonably – disagree on the course of action which flows from them.

The traditional way of resolving such an impasse is to march off to court, argue the point and await judgement – an expensive and lengthy process that can annoy those on the Bench, given that lawyers might be expected to be able to work this out for themselves.

The good thing is that – with a little help from the QLS Ethics Committee – we can.


The QLS Ethics and Practice Centre can refer such disputes (where at least one party is a full QLS member) to its Ethics Committee for a non-binding ethics ruling. The service is free to members and rulings are made within four to five weeks, meaning that ethical dilemmas can be resolved without postponing hearings or disrupting the existing directions of the court.

The service is available for all ethical dilemmas (not just conflict issues) where the parties have reached a general agreement over the facts. The rulings are de-identified and published on the QLS website to serve as a reference for practitioners, and are fully referenced with case citations, legislation and conduct rules.

Like Captain Kirk, QLS is no fan of the no-win scenario, but we also do not cheat; so we created the non-binding ethics ruling service to help members defuse the no-win scenario and better serve clients.

If you have an ethical dilemma that seems unresolvable, get in touch with the QLS Ethics and Practice Centre to see if we can assist.

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