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The Law Society's Senior Ethics Solicitor presents a pop quiz on common courtesy. See if you can ace it.

Can you get full marks by correctly identifying what is discourteous in the examples below? Simply complete this short test below and read on to find out how you can ensure you are always being courtesy in your conduct.

  1. Another solicitor telephones you. You do not respond.
  2. You write to another solicitor saying they are ignorant and unethical.
  3. On Friday at 6 pm, you set a deadline for another solicitor of Monday at 9 am.

Three cheers if you correctly identified that all three are discourteous.

Now, for the nitpickers, yes, there may be some reasons why these might be necessary. But those reasons do NOT include:

  1. My client told me to do it.
  2. My principal told me to do it.
  3. The other solicitor did it.
  4. Everyone else does it.

You might validly not respond if you have previously set appropriate parameters to how you will respond eg just once a day not thirty times. And occasionally we do need to help guide another solicitor back on to the right track, although it is arguable whether such directness will achieve that result. Much better to have a chat and see what lies beneath. As for deadlines, the business hours expected by some clients are positively unethical. We need our restorative time like anyone else. To get that treatment from a colleague is so much worse.

As with any other ethical obligation, there are grey areas. However, there are definitely black and white situations too. Collegiate courtesy should be our profession’s byline just as much as confidentiality. (And if we add in conflicts, then we have more than enough alliteration for one Ethics article.)