The Ethics Committee and Department of the Law Society provides guidance on ethical issues to all practitioners. Often, it notices particular ethical issues that arise more frequently than others. The following scenarios have been drafted to highlight some current and frequently arising ethical issues. The scenarios also highlight a couple of the changes that came with the new Conduct Rules introduced on 1 January this year.
Q: I am acting for a person who was injured in an accident. Can I write a letter directly to the person at fault or should I contact their insurer?
A: There are two relevant rules here. First is rule 22.4, which says, “A solicitor must not confer or deal with any party represented by or to the knowledge of the solicitor indemnified by an insurer, unless the party and the insurer have signified willingness to that course”. Therefore, you should contact the insurer. This rule was introduced with the new Conduct Rules and is a little different to the old rule 18. However, it does follow the same broad principles required by professional courtesy, and not contacting a person who is represented by another practitioner. This brings us to the second rule of relevance, which is rule 33 – the no-contact rule. You must be particularly careful of this rule when you are dealing with a corporate entity, which is more likely than not to have in-house counsel or a law firm on permanent retainer.