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Ethics and professional conduct

Lawyers navigate a fine balance between their role as an agent of the Court and the duty they owe to their clients. This commitment is the basis of the standards and requirements set out in the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Standards and Regulations.

The highest number of reports to the SRA about unethical behavior are often concerns about the integrity, independence, and honesty of a solicitor.

What do we mean by ethics?

Behaving ethically is at the heart of being a lawyer which is why they are held to a very high standard of behaviour. At work ethics will:

- Help you navigate difficult client situations - Enable you to respond to moral dilemmas at work in the right way

Why do ethics matter?

Ethics matter because lawyers are seen as the gatekeepers of the rule of law as they have a professional ethical obligation to uphold the rule of law and meet their other professional ethical obligations simultaneously. Ethics also matter because your transgressions will not only affect you deeply on a personal level but also your whole organisation's reputation stands to suffer with inevitable financial implications for all concerned. Lawyers also need ethics so they can:

- Play a positive role in the smooth functioning of society and - Ensure public good continues to be valued and promoted

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Overreaching and possible consequences

Breaching ethical and professional conduct rules can have serious consequences on a young lawyer's future and could result in being prohibited from working in the profession alltogether. Here's a recent matter involving a paralegal that went before the criminal court:

Mr. A worked as a paralegal at a solicitors firm in 2021. The firm dismissed him for the theft of over £100,000 of client money to fund a gambling habit. They reported the matter to the SRA who banned him from working for law firms without its permission because of what had happened. He was also pursued through the criminal courts. Bolton Crown Court heard the losses suffered by the law firm were so severe that a third of its 24 staff were made redundant and the partners had to pay out £400,000 to cover losses. He was subsequently jailed for two years in 2023.

Ethical and professional conduct issues to be aware of on day one

Here are some of the ethical and professional conduct issues you should fully understand on day one:

-Independence -Confidentiality -Conflicts -Conduct

You can read the full SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs for all of the regulations