A solicitor's commitment to behaving ethically is at the heart of what it means to be a solicitor. The Law Society supports solicitors in recognising and handling difficult professional situations and making choices which can be substantiated by reference to the SRA Code of Conduct.
Making a commitment to acting ethically is intrinsically linked with meeting the standards and requirements set out in the SRA Code of Conduct. These standards stem from the 10 mandatory principles. The principles apply to all solicitors and underpin all aspects of practice. [Read more about the principles]
The code says:
"They define the fundamental ethical and professional standards that we expect of all firms and individuals (including owners who may not be lawyers) when providing legal services. You should always have regard to the principles and use them as your starting point when faced with an ethical dilemma."
For advice on ethical issues, call the SRA professional ethics helpline on 0370 606 2577.
The Law Society is in the process of creating a suite of interactive ethical scenarios, featuring Ethel, our ethical guru, who guides users though the ethical issues associated with dilemmas solicitors might face in practice.
The first four scenarios can be accessed below. After completing the scenarios, please tell us what you think by completing the short online feedback survey.
In this scenario, a solicitor finds herself in a position of potential conflict. Can she represent two clients in the same matter?
There are lessons to be learned about identifying conflicts at an early stage, ensuring good communications with clients and taking steps to alleviate problems further down the line.
In this scenario, a solicitor must consider his duties of confidentiality and disclosure in a complicated set of circumstances.
In this scenario, a junior solicitor finds herself in a difficult situation when she discovers potential misconduct by her training principal and supervisor. What exactly should she do next, bearing in mind that he is responsible for signing off her training contract?
In this scenario, a solicitor is put under pressure by a large commercial client to change the firm’s usual terms of engagement. The situation becomes more complicated when the solicitor represents the client in a Competition and Markets Authority investigation for price fixing.
Please note: if you're not a member of our free CPD Centre, you will need to register. It only takes two minutes to register and you will be taken straight to the scenario once registered.
The Law Society recently undertook an Ethics Project, aimed at gathering material to inform our policy with regard to supporting and promoting a culture of ethics within the profession.
This work reflects the increasing interest in ethics within the profession and the regulatory climate, and dovetails with the Law Society's corporate strategy. The Project was made up of several workstreams, including an interview programme and an online survey.
The Law Society conducted an interview programme with solicitors, academics and other professionals on the subject of ethics. Areas for discussion included the values and practices that separate solicitors from other professions, and, in turn, from other practitioners working within the legal sector. We asked questions such as:
In conjunction with our interview programme, we gauged views on solicitors' ethics from members of the profession and the public. The online survey was completed by 350 individuals, and covered:
Some key findings from the Ethics Project included:
The results of the project are already informing the Law Society's consideration of future work in this important area. Indeed, the launch of interactive ethical scenarios stems from the project's findings.
The following represent some of the most important papers and research on legal ethics:
The SRA's 'A Question of Trust' programme aims to improve the clarity of its standards and transparency about what action the SRA will take if standards are not met. It aims to improve the consistency of its decision-making on this subject by producing a guiding framework for use by SRA staff. The framework will show the relative seriousness of common breaches of the Code of Conduct.
Before developing the framework, the SRA is seeking the profession's views via a survey, which asks practising solicitors to consider scenarios describing breaches of the code, and to assess their seriousness.
The results of the survey as well as responses to its formal consultation which closes on 31 January 2016, will inform the framework.
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Law Society practice notes
SRA Code of Conduct
SRA question of ethics
Ethical Performance (providing news and analysis on corporate social responsibility issues)
Institute of Business Ethics (latest business ethics thinking)
Business Ethics: A European Review (important issues in business ethics, and corporate social responsibility)
Best business ethics blogs (50 ethics blogs)
Part of the Regulatory Affairs Board, this committee monitors professional standards and values in regulation.
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