Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules review

Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules review

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

We have contributed to a National Legal Aid submission responding to a review of the Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules by the Ethics Committee of the Law Council of Australia. While the Rules cover all aspects of professional conduct, this consultation was a particular opportunity to address the difficult issue of conflict, and advocate for a clarification of the rules in relation to one-off or discrete legal services.

This view is shared by other members of National Legal Aid, who are concerned that the current conflict rules potentially restrict access to legal assistance services, especially in rural and regional areas. This is particularly true of unbundled or discrete services – one-off services like duty lawyer work, or the provision of legal information – where there is no expectation of ongoing representation.

About the submission

The submission proposes a new exception to the rule against conflicts, meaning that discrete services could be provided as long as the lawyer does not have actual knowledge of a conflict. This aims to protect lawyers who act in good faith, without having reasonable grounds for thinking that a conflict exists. The submission argues that any special recognition of conflict in discrete service should apply to the whole of the legal profession, not just the legal assistance sector.

Other issues addressed in the submission include:

  • Whether lawyers should have to tell people about the availability of Legal Aid, and help them complete an application (rule 7)
  • Whether rules about confidentiality should be amended to exempt the use of de-personalised information by legal assistance bodies in case studies (rule 9)
  • Whether the commentary to rule 21 (Responsible use of court process or privilege) should advise practitioners to take special care when acting for an alleged perpetrator of family violence or psychological abuse, noting the potential for the use of legal/court proceedings in perpetuating that abuse.

More information

You can read the full submission on the National Legal Aid website.

You can also read the Law Council’s original consultation paper at Law Council of Australia.

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