Am I obliged to act as my client’s deputy?

I’ve been acting for a client for many years who no longer has mental capacity to give instructions. The local authority social services team insists that I’m under an obligation to be appointed as their deputy. Is this correct?

No. Once a client loses capacity, your retainer with that client is terminated.

Principle 7 of the SRA Standards and Regulations 2019 states that you must act “in the best interests of each client”.

You should also consider paragraph 4.1 of the Code of Conduct for Firms and paragraph 3 of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors.

Although you’re not obliged to take on the role of the deputy, it’s important that your former client, who is in a very vulnerable situation, is not left without legal representation.

You could make some enquiries to see if there is someone legally entitled to provide you with instructions, such as an attorney under an enduring or lasting power of attorney, or if there is someone suitable willing to be a deputy.

For further information, see our guidance on meeting the needs of vulnerable clients.


While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

Have you got a practice question?

Call the Practice Advice Service on 020 7320 5675 or email

The Practice Advice Service is staffed Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS