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Solicitors' Code of Conduct 2011

1 August 2011

The Code of Conduct is split into five main sections, and each section is divided into chapters. An overview of the sections and chapters is set out below:

 

Section 1: You and your client

Chapter 1 Client care

This chapter focuses on providing proper standards of service and taking into account the individual circumstances of clients.

Outcome 1.1 requires you to 'treat your clients fairly'. Given the far reaching nature of this outcome, individuals and firms must always take this into account when dealing with clients.

This chapter also includes outcomes on complaints handling, including that clients must be informed in writing at the outset of their matter of their right to complain and how complaints can be made.

Clients' complaints must also be dealt with, 'promptly, fairly, openly and effectively'.

Chapter 2 Equality and diversity

This chapter outlines outcomes on encouraging equality of opportunity and respect for diversity, and on preventing unlawful discrimination. As well as meeting these outcomes, the requirements of legislation, including the Equality Act 2010, must also be complied with.

Chapter 3 Conflicts of interest

This chapter sets out that you must not act if there is an own interest conflict, or a significant risk of an own interest conflict.

Also, you must not act if there is a client conflict, or a significant risk of a client conflict (unless the exceptions in outcomes 3.6 and 3.7 apply).

The outcomes in this chapter require that firms should have systems and controls in place to identify potential conflicts of interests. These systems should be appropriate to the size and needs of firms.

There are specific indicative behaviours relating to conveyancing transactions, including on acting for lender and borrower and also on acting for buyer and seller.

The following flowcharts are an easy reference guide to the outcomes and IBs on acting for buyer and seller and lender and borrower, which are outlined in chapter 3 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011. View reference guide on:
Acting for buyer and seller (PDF 64kb)
Acting for lender and borrower (PDF 66kb)

For further information see the Law Society practice note on conflict of interests.

Download the Law Society and Council of Mortgage Lenders Approved Certificate of Title:

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Chapter 4 Confidentiality and disclosure

This chapter outlines outcomes on the protection of clients' confidential information and the disclosure of material information to clients.

The duty of confidentiality to clients must be reconciled with the duty of disclosure but, where these duties cannot be reconciled, the protection of confidential information is paramount.

The outcomes in this chapter outline that firms are required to have effective systems and controls in place to identify risks to client confidentiality and to mitigate those risks.

Chapter 5 Your client and the court

This chapter is about the duties to clients and to the court, for solicitors exercising a right to conduct litigation or acting as an advocate.

The first outcome, 5.1, states that, 'you do not attempt to deceive or knowingly or recklessly mislead the court'. The outcomes apply to litigation and advocacy although some of the indicative behaviours are only relevant to advocates.

Chapter 6: Your client and introduction to third parties

This chapter is about referring clients to third parties, which includes other lawyers as well as non-lawyers such as financial service providers.

When referring clients to third parties, outcome 6.1 states that, 'your recommendation is in the best interests of the client and does not compromise your independence.'

It is important that independence is maintained and that any referral made is in the best interests of the client.

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Section 2: You and your business

Chapter 7 Management of your business

This chapter focuses on the management and supervision of firms and in-house practices.

The outcomes in this chapter set out that firms must have 'clear and effective governance structure and reporting lines', 'identify, monitor and manage risks' and, 'maintain systems and controls for monitoring the financial stability of your firm and risks to money and assets.'

Important factors that need to be taken into account, when deciding what systems need to be implemented to meet the outcomes, will include the size and complexity of the business; the number, experience and qualifications of the employees; the number of offices and the nature of work undertaken.

Chapter 8 Publicity

This chapter is about the manner in which services are publicised. Publicity must not be misleading and must be sufficiently informative to ensure that clients and others can make informed choices. There is also an outcome that specifies what information firms' letterhead, website and emails should contain.

Chapter 9 Fee sharing and referrals

This chapter sets out outcomes which aim to protect clients' interests in relation to both referrals and fee sharing.

Outcomes include that your independence must not be prejudiced by virtue of an arrangement with another person, clients must be in a position to make informed decisions and also, 'where you enter into a financial arrangement with an introducer you ensure that the agreement is in writing.'

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Section 3: You and your regulator

Chapter 10 You and your regulator

This chapter focuses on the relationship between authorised persons (including firms) and regulators, primarily the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Legal Ombudsman.

Outcomes include complying 'with all the reporting and notification requirements in the Handbook' and notifying the SRA promptly of any 'material changes to relevant information about you including serious financial difficulty'.

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Section 4: You and others

Chapter 11 Relations with third parties

This chapter sets out requirements to ensure that solicitors and authorised bodies do not take unfair advantage of those they deal with.

The outcomes include conduct in relation to undertakings, and that all undertakings are performed within 'an agreed timescale or within a reasonable amount of time'.

Some of the conduct requirements in this area apply in all circumstances in which professional titles are used to advance personal interests.

Chapter 12 Separate businesses

The aim of this chapter is to ensure firms cannot 'hive off' unreserved legal work to an unregulated separate business, undermining the protection offered to clients who purchase legal work from a solicitors firm.

This chapter outlines prohibited separate business activities, which are services that you cannot offer through a separate business.

It also outlines permitted separate business activities, which are services that you can offer through a separate business or through an authorised body.

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Section 5: Application, waivers and interpretation

Chapter 13 Application and waivers provisions

This chapter outlines the application and waivers provisions.

Chapter 14 Glossary

This chapter is a glossary for the Code of Conduct. The SRA intend to produce one glossary for the whole Handbook, which may in future replace this chapter.

Chapter 15 Transitional provisions

This chapter contains transitional provisions for the Code of Conduct.

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