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.
Watch the film on YouTube
An ethics session hosted with the British Academy on 16 April 2018. The panel of Professor Colin Mayer, Philip Wood, Simon Davis, Ingrid Holmes and Sophia Adams Bhatti discuss questions such as:
How realistic or advisable is it for professionals to admit their own mistakes? Is it sensible to do so, or career limiting? What can lawyers learn from how other professions deal with their mistakes? How will you be protected if you report another person’s mistakes? These issues were explored in a keynote speech by Lord Brian Paddick, in four workshops, and by a panel of experts in our symposium, November 2017. View on YouTube
Can lawyers be competitive and act ethically? How do individuals and firms strike a balance between rule of law and reputation? A panel of experts discuss these issues and more. Watch the highlights from a panel event, May 2017, here or view on Youtube.
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 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.
After completing the scenarios, please tell us what you think by filling in the short feedback survey.
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.
A solicitor must consider his duties of confidentiality and disclosure in a complicated set of circumstances.
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?
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.
In a criminal trial a solicitor is representing a client on two burglary charges, both of which involve preying on elderly people. The scenario explores the ethical dilemma caused by the client wishing to change his guilty plea. As with all of the scenarios, a range of factors causes the situation to become increasingly complicated.
In this scenario, a solicitor who is representing a client who is in the UK on a Tier 4 student visa is presented with a series of ethical dilemmas when her client falls in love with a man who is living in the UK illegally. As with all of the scenarios, a range of factors causes the situation to become increasingly complicated, and the user is presented with a series of decisions to make.
Please note: if you're not a member of our free Professional Development Centre, you will need to register. It only takes two minutes and you'll be taken straight to the scenario afterwards.
This Law Society project aimed to gather material to inform our policy in supporting and promoting a culture of ethics within the profession.
This work reflects the increasing interest in ethics within both the profession and the regulatory climate, and dovetails with the Law Society's corporate strategy. The project comprised several workstreams, including an interview programme and an online survey.
The Law Society conducted interviews 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 sought the profession's views via a survey which asked 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 closed 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)
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