The Legal Profession Uniform Law

Hopefully, readers are all aware of the introduction of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (Uniform Law) on 1 July. There have been several useful articles in the LSJ over the past few months about the likely impacts of the Uniform Law. The Solicitors Conduct Rules are part of the Uniform Law and are also under review.

At the time of writing, a final version of the new Conduct Rules is not yet available. However, the ethical principles that govern our profession essentially do not change. If we think about those principles, it is clear that they could not change without such significant structural changes to our system of justice that it would no longer function. Take our duty as officers of the court, which overrides every other duty. What if we were no longer so bound but could instead do exactly what our clients wanted us to – the client who wanted us to lie for them about where they were on that fateful night. The client who wanted us to take up the most ridiculous points with no chance of success, simply to waste everyone’s time and tie up the courts.

Then there is our duty of confidentiality. We are privy to the personal details of our clients – their deepest hopes and fears, as well as what they have been doing. How likely would they be to provide us with all the information we need in order to give them good legal advice if we were free to publicise all we knew?

As for what is discourteous and unprofessional, unfortunately there is enough of a difference of opinion already about whether certain types of behaviour qualify as that. We all know just how much harder it is to progress our client’s matters when the other solicitor is being rude to us personally. And the statistics for depression within the profession prove we do not need any more personal stress. So, while much will be changing under the Uniform Law, our ethical principles will (and must) stay fundamentally the same.

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