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Standards, but not as we know them : International Bar Association’s ‘Fantasy’ ethics guide for lawyers broken daily in Scots legal profession

24 Jul

Michael ClancyNo standards are good standards : Law Society of Scotland’s Director of Law Reform Michael Clancy sits on International Bar Association. A CODE OF ETHICS, a term not widely associated with the Law Society of Scotland & Scotland’s legal profession who were recently revealed to have hacked ‘difficult client’s private details in cases connected to complaints & financial damages claims made against negligent or ‘crooked’ Scottish solicitors, have been ‘updated’ in a guide published by the International Bar Association which describes itself as ‘the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies’.

A clue to how useful the guide is to consumers may be in the inclusion of the Law Society of Scotland’s Director of Law Reform, Michael Clancy, who has at least twice stepped in to curtail moves to reform ethics, regulation & complaints in Scotland’s legal profession. Several currently serving & former MSPs at the Scottish Parliament have disclosed discussions with Mr Clancy over constituents problems & issues connected with ethics & regulation of the legal profession which fall very wide of the mark of what is little more than a ‘fantasy guide’ from the IBA as any client caught in the maelstrom of dealing with a complaint against their legal representative will know.

The International Bar Association’s website states in a release on the subject :

The IBA International Principles is the 21st century version of a set of ethics for the legal profession first introduced more than 50 years ago, with the precursors to today’s edition as the ‘IBA International Code of Ethics’ (1956 and 1988). The gathering pace of globalisation and increase in cross-border transactions has led to the Code of Ethics being  revisited and republished, resulting in today’s publication. A thorough process with input from representatives of the legal profession from all continents has produced 10 core principles which should be common to all lawyers.

The 10 core values constituting the IBA International Principles, compiled from input from representatives of the legal profession from all continents has produced principles which, the IBA says, should be common to all lawyers in 10 core areas:

1. Independence
  A lawyer shall maintain independence and be afforded the protection such independence offers in giving clients unbiased advice and representation. A lawyer shall exercise independent, unbiased professional judgment in advising a client, including as to the likelihood of  success of  the client’s case.

2. Honesty, integrity and fairness
  A lawyer shall at all times maintain the highest standards of honesty, integrity and fairness towards the lawyer’s clients, the court, colleagues and all those with whom the lawyer comes into professional contact.

3. Conflicts of interest
  A lawyer shall not assume a position in which a client’s interests conflict with those of the lawyer, another lawyer in the same firm, or another client, unless otherwise permitted by law, applicable rules of  professional conduct, or, if  permitted, by client’s authorisation.

4. Confidentiality/professional secrecy
  A lawyer shall at all times maintain and be afforded protection of confidentiality regarding the affairs of  present or former clients, unless otherwise allowed or required by law and/or applicable rules of  professional conduct.

5. Clients’ interest
  A lawyer shall treat client interests as paramount, subject always to there being no conflict with the lawyer’s duties to the court and the interests of  justice, to observe the law, and to maintain ethical standards.

6. Lawyers’ undertaking
  A lawyer shall honour any undertaking given in the course of the lawyer’s practice in a timely manner, until the undertaking is performed, released or excused.

7. Clients’ freedom
  A lawyer shall respect the freedom of clients to be represented by the lawyer of their choice. Unless prevented by professional conduct rules or by law, a lawyer shall be free to take on or reject a case.

8. Property of clients and third parties
A lawyer shall account promptly and faithfully for and prudently hold any property of  clients or third parties that comes into the lawyer’s trust, and shall keep it separate from the lawyer’s own property.

9. Competence
  A lawyer’s work shall be carried out in a competent and timely manner. A lawyer shall not take on work that the lawyer does not reasonably believe can be carried out in that manner.

10. Fees
  Lawyers are entitled to a reasonable fee for their work, and shall not charge an unreasonable fee. A lawyer shall not generate unnecessary work.

Each principle is clearly defined in the booklet available HERE and contains expanded commentary on how it could be used as a basis to establish codes of conduct for lawyers within different jurisdictions.

James Klotz, Chair of the IBA BIC says : We are hopeful that the “IBA International Principles” will serve as a basis for codes of conduct throughout the global legal profession and beyond. It is our aim that governments and other appropriate authorities in relation to furthering and improving the rule of law and defending liberty and justice will also realise the value of the core principles, so essential to the independence of the legal profession and democracy.’ He added, ‘We believe that fledgling bar associations struggling to establish independence, will find the principles a particularly great resource.”

For a reality check on the IBA’s guide to ethics, the following article may provide a more informed view on the realities of relationships between clients & solicitors in Scotland’s legal services market : Toxic levels of complaints, poor standards of service & soaring fraud by solicitors makes Law Society of Scotland ‘World’s worst regulator’

In the cold reality of what is Scotland’s invariably dishonest legal services market, each & everyone one of the IBA’s 10 principles, values or whatever they wish to call them, appears to be broken multiple times on a daily basis.

Scots clients & consumers, especially in today’s difficult financial times,, have no guarantees, safety or reason to put any faith or trust in their relationship with their legal representatives as far as I can see from the weekly lists of cases of breaches of client trust brought to the attention of Diary of Injustice on a regular basis.

Michael Clancy BACKGROUND :

Michael Clancy recently stepped into block a petition at the Scottish Parliament calling for the repeal of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980, which I reported on here : Law Society ‘warns’ Scottish Parliament : Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 ‘should not be repealed’ by msps or Scottish Government

Mr Clancy also recently served on the Calman Commission review of devolution, viewed by many Scots as little more than a move to curtail more power being handed over to the Scottish Parliament & Scottish Government. An article reporting on Clancy’s role in this matter is here : Vested interests take priority as Calman Implementation Group ‘contaminated’ by Law Society of Scotland’s ‘reform blocker’ appointment

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