What is The Solicitors’ Code of Conduct
It is a set of rules and regulations giving guidance on the standard of professional conduct to all Solicitors in England & Wales, registered European lawyers, registered foreign lawyers and other recognised bodies. These rules and regulations are very specific and give guidance on the Solicitors standards of behaviour or conduct when carrying out their duty of care to their clients. It is therefore very important to be aware of those rules. Failure to follow those rules by your solicitor may result in you suing him for Professional Negligence. You may also decide to complain to Legal Complaints Service. Solicitors are bound by those rules and there is no excuse for them to fail to follow them. The code contains guidance to each rule these however do not form a part of the code and are not mandatory themselves. Understanding those rules may help you control your case and the progress that your solicitor is taking throughout this transaction.
What rules are contained in the conduct
The code of conduct consists of 25 specific rules which are designed to control everyday job of a solicitor. Rule 1 contains 6 core duties which preserve justice, the rule of law. They keep an eye on solicitors to act with integrity, independence, in the best interests of clients. They preserve a good standard of service and public confidence.
The rule of law
The common law of England & Wales, statutes, and case law together form the legal system of England and Wales.
A solicitor must act in accordance with the rules and still together with his fellow colleagues, the court.
A solicitor is a professional and other public bodies must trust him to put their trust in him.
Rule 2 was designed to maintain good relations between the Solicitor and the client. This rule gives guidance on accepting clients instructions and in what circumstances can a solicitor refuse instructions. (e.g. where it would constitute breach of conduct, duress or undue influence, where instructions are given by someone else not a client and where a solicitor lacks competence) A solicitor is always under an obligation to fulfil clients objectives therefore must keep his client informed of all steps he is taking or any costs and contingency fees in relation to any transaction he was instructed under. This rule also explains that both you and your solicitor should clearly know what each others responsibilities are in relation to transaction as it is not up to the solicitor only to work on your case. You must inform him about any changing circumstances of your case and you should act in cooperation with the solicitor. This rule also explains the procedure if you decide to make a formal complaint against your solicitor and it states you should first pay attention to what the firms written complaints procedure is and your solicitor should inform you about this in a client care letter. You should also be given a copy of complaints procedure. This rule also gives you the option to decide whether you want to keep commission paid to you or you want the firm to keep it. A solicitor is also not allowed to exclude a by contract all liability to you they are only allowed to limit it.
Client Care Letter
It is an initial letter send by a solicitor to you after the first interview. A solicitor will set up all the details of your first interview and all the information that you gave him plus any other relevant information relating to this matter e.g. costs details, actions to be taken by each side, which he will be supervised by.
A sum as a percentage of the proceeds payable only in the event of success (Rule 24)
This rule specifies that a solicitor is not allowed to act for you if there is any conflict of interest which can for instance be if the firm is already acting for a person that you are suing. A solicitor’s duty is to act in the best interests of any client. There are some exceptions which must be carefully assessed before a solicitor can take your instructions, namely if the clients have common interest in the transaction. A solicitor must remember not to put his duty of confidentiality at risk therefore if a conflict arises during already existing transaction he should make sure this will not be put at risk. This rule also controls making of lifetime gifts to a solicitor, which requires a solicitor to advise you to take independent legal advice on this gift. This rule regulates the case when a solicitor is allowed to act for both the Seller and the Buyer in relation to a conveyancing transaction. General rule is that a solicitor should not act for more than one client however there are exceptions. Your solicitor should inform you of these and must let you know if he is acting for the other party too. Solicitor must be careful so that conflicts of interest does not arise otherwise he would have to stop acting. This rule gives guidance on when a solicitor can act for the lender and the borrower subject to exceptions.
Confidentiality and disclosure
Whenever you decide to instruct a solicitor and disclose all facts of you case he is under a duty of confidentiality, on the other hand he has a duty of disclosure with for instance when this is prohibited by law, or you expressly agreed that no duty of disclosure arises or where it is in the interest of prevention of injury being caused. General rule is that duty of confidentiality overrides the duty to disclose. A solicitor has always a duty not to put confidentiality at risk by acting for another client where this information may have to be disclosed as relevant or due to any adverse interest. There are a few exceptions but a solicitor must remember to act reasonably in all the circumstances, and the client should consent.
A solicitor must not knowingly mislead the court, must obey court orders and must not be in contempt of court. A solicitor must not refuse instructions to act on you behalf on the following grounds, if the case is of the nature objectionable to him or his belief and that the source of the financial support is unacceptable to him. While appearing as an advocate he must not say anything scandalous with intent to insult a witness. He has the right to refuse your instructions if you are offering inadequate consideration with respect to the nature of the case, practice and his experience. He is not obliged to act under a conditional fee agreement.
Other rules give guidance for solicitors on other issues as business management, fee sharing, litigation and advocacy, guidance in other practices in relation to European and foreign lawyers practicing in the UK etc.