Professional Practice Support

Ethics and Professional Conduct

Ethics and Professional Conduct

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Ethics are the moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour. For legal practitioners, ethics take on an added level of importance. Alongside rules of professional conduct and the common law, ethical values act as a guide to proper behaviour for lawyers.

Navigating the ethical minefield can be a difficult prospect for many practitioners, but it is important that lawyers stay on the right side of morality as well as the law. Legal practitioners are subject to high ethical standards due to the prominent position they hold in the administration of justice. For this reason, and to maintain the reputation of the profession, lawyers must always act in a highly ethical manner.

On 22 September 2014 the Law Society adopted the Legal Profession Conduct Rules 2010 (as amended from time to time) as its ‘Code of Ethical Conduct’ and also adopted the following Summary of Ethical Principles:

We acknowledge the role of our profession in serving our community in the administration of justice. We recognise that the law should protect the rights and freedoms of members of society.  We understand that we are responsible to our community to observe high standards of conduct and behaviour when we perform our duties to the courts, our clients and our fellow practitioners.

Our conduct and behaviour should reflect the character we aspire to have as a profession.

This means that as individuals engaged in the profession and as a profession:

  1. We primarily serve the interests of justice.
  2. We act competently and diligently in the service of our clients.
  3. We advance our clients’ interests above our own.
  4. We act confidentially and in the protection of all client information.
  5. We act together for the mutual benefit of our profession.
  6. We avoid any conflict of interest and duties.
  7. We observe strictly our duty to the Court of which we are officers to ensure the proper and efficient administration of justice.
  8. We seek to maintain the highest standards of integrity, honesty and fairness in all our dealings.
  9. We charge fairly for our work.

We observe faithfully our Code of Ethical Conduct.

This Summary of Ethical Principles has been adopted from the Law Society of New South Wales ‘Statement of Ethics’.  The Law Society of New South Wales is thanked for allowing its adoption by the Law Society.

Costs

Costs

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Costs can be a problematic and complicated aspect of running a legal practice. Lawyers must ensure that they comply with the various provisions of the Legal Profession Act and the Legal Profession Regulations, which detail the rights of clients and responsibilities of practitioners.

Clients may negotiate a costs agreement, request an itemised bill, or ask for written reports about the progress of their matter. It is important from both a legal and ethical standpoint that clients are well informed about these rights and practitioners remain mindful of their duties.

Law Society Costs Kits

The Law Society of Western Australia has developed two cost kits to assist legal practices:

  • The Law Society of Western Australia Standard Costs Kit
  • The Law Society of Western Australia Family Law Costs Kit

Both kits contain:

  • Offer by Law Practice to enter into Costs Agreement
  • Explanatory Notes for Clients
  • Explanatory Notes for Law Practices – Disclosure and Costs Agreements
  • Sample Engagement Letter

Members can access cost kits for free through your member’s dashboard.

Non-members may purchase cost kits through the Law Society online shop.

Legal Profession Regulations 2009 – Forms and Fact Sheets

Forms 2 and 3
Regulations 80(1) and 82(1) of the Legal Profession Regulations 2009 refer to the following forms in Schedule 1:

Form 2: Legal Costs – Your Right to Know
Form 3: Form of Notification of Client’s Rights

Download forms 2 and 3

Fact Sheets
The forms state that for more information about their rights, clients should read the following fact sheets:

  • Legal Costs – Your Right to Know (Regulation 80(1)); and
  • Your Right to Challenge Legal Costs (Regulations 82(1)).

Download the fact sheets

Complaints

Complaints

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As a legal practitioner, having a complaint made against you can have a potentially devastating impact on your ability to practise, not to mention your own personal health and wellbeing. You may find that your emotions rage, with a mix of anger, fear and guilt swirling around you.

While complaints have the potential to cause some sleepless nights, it is important that practitioners face the issues that arise head-on. Remaining calm and addressing the complaint, usually with the help of a specialised claims solicitor, can help you make it through to the other side having learned from the experience.

Accreditation

Accreditation

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The Law Society has specialist accreditation programmes including Family Law Accreditation, Mediation Accreditation and Quality Practice Standard (QPS).

Family Law Accreditation

The Law Society offers specialist accreditation in the area of family law. The Accredited Family Law Specialist Programme provides family law practitioners the opportunity to be formally recognised as having a high level of competency in their field.

Mediation Accreditation

The Law Society is a Recognised Mediation Accreditation Body (RMAB) under the National Mediation Accreditation Scheme (NMAS).

The NMAS identifies standards of practice and competencies for mediators in Australia. A person must be accredited to NMAS standards to qualify as a mediator under the Rules of the Supreme Court.

Quality Practice Standard (QPS)

QPS recognises firms that have developed and adhere to documented internal processes, designed to improve client satisfaction and avoid wastage.

QPS law firms are audited each year to ensure they comply with standards which go beyond the requirements set out by state legislation. Firms complying with QPS can use the Approved Quality Practice logo on their letterheads and promotional material.

Setting up and Running a Legal Practice