Lawyers are required to comply with a number of duties which can be regulated by the law. This includes the Legal Profession Act 2008 (WA) and the Legal Profession Conduct Rules 2010 (WA).
Duties a Lawyer owes
A lawyer owes a fiduciary relationship to their client as it is a relationship of trust and confidence. A fiduciary relationship creates many legal duties for the person in whom the trust has been placed. Generally this person must act in the best interests of the other. However, a lawyer’s duty to the Court is paramount and prevails to the extent of inconsistency with any other duty.
In relation to their clients, lawyers are required to:
- act in a client’s best interests;
- provide clear and timely advice to assist their clients;
- follow a client’s lawful, proper and competent instructions;
- avoid any conflict of interests;
- maintain client’s confidentiality; and
- disclose all changes regarding costs to the client.
If a private lawyer thinks you are likely to be eligible for legal aid or a legal aid grant, they are required to advise you of this fact.
Your lawyer must disclose in writing how much they will charge and about other expenses before they begin working for you. Find further information on this can be found under ‘how much will it cost’. Once you have agreed to use a particular lawyer, they should send you bills for their services, setting out the work performed and the charges for each service completed.
Conversations, correspondence and documentation between you and your lawyers are confidential and can only be revealed in limited situations. Lawyers must follow strict rules in the maintenance of client files. Lawyers are not permitted to identify your matter professionally or personally in any capacity.
Your lawyer cannot take any action without your instructions. They must carry out your instructions promptly and efficiently in accordance with the law.
As the client, you should receive regular updates on the progress of your matter, preferably in writing. Your lawyer must provide advice about all your options, including the best course of action. Your lawyer must treat you with respect, be polite and assist in your understanding of the law related to your matter.
Handling your money
Your lawyer may ask you to pay some of their fees in advance to cover any expenses they incur during their work for you. This money must be held in trust account and cannot be paid to anybody for any expenses without your specific permission, which you may provide in your original costs agreement.
Making a complaint
The Legal Profession Complaints Committee has statutory responsibility under the Legal Profession Act 2008 (WA) for supervising the conduct of all legal practitioners in Western Australia.
The Committee ensures ethical conduct and professional behaviour within the legal profession. This includes receiving all complaints and inquiring into all complaints for lawyers and barristers in Western Australia.
Complaints against lawyers are generally made in regards to:
- Illegal conduct;
- Professional misconduct; and
- Neglect and/or undue delay.
To submit a complaint with the Committee, submit an enquiry with them at https://www.lpbwa.org.au/Complaints/Complaint-Enquiry-Form