Staff Manual | Client Relations
Law firms have particular duties and responsibilities that are not common in most industries or professions. Lawyers, when they join the legal profession, are required to take an oath that requires a number of things:
That their first duty is to be candid and respectful in their dealings with Courts;
That they must act in the best interests of their clients; and,
That they must comply with the laws, regulations and ethics obligations that apply to their profession.
These duties can often overlap or contradict each other. You should read (but need not memorise) the Solicitors Rules of Practice.
Ultimately, the actions and knowledge of any one person are deemed to be the actions and knowledge of all – if you are aware of something, everyone in the firm is assumed to know it. For this reason it is important that:
Communication be constant and free-flowing, and,
You bring to others’ attention anything which may cause difficulties, conflicts, or be important. This is sometimes difficult to predict – what you think may be very minor, may be a very major issue in a case.
If in doubt, speak up and tell another employee or your boss.
The main ethical obligations to keep in mind are:
We do not lie.
Let’s be honest – we spin sometimes. We present our client’s position and instructions in the best, strongest possible light. But we do not lie, mislead or falsify information. Ever.
We do not act against our own clients.
Conflicts of interest are numerous but primarily: if we are assisting one person, we will not assist a person who is the other side on a case. In family law, this obligation can be permanent; in other areas, it depends on the situation. The decision about a conflict of interest should be checked with the solicitor in charge.
We are respectful to all.
Client are often in a very difficult position. Whether it is losing their driver’s licence, their money, struggling through the emotion of a family breakup, missing or fearing for their children, or many other reasons – clients are often in the worst situation that they have ever experienced and struggle to cope. We must deal with them respectfully, directly and professionally. We do not join their emotional situation, but help them to deal with the legal issues surrounding it.
We respect confidentiality and privacy.
Family members do NOT have a right to know what is happening – even if they are the spouses, parents and children of our clients. Our clients’ personal matters are exactly that. No one has the right to know what they tell us, except where authorised by law. They do not even have the right to know that we’ve ever met the client, unless that has been authorised by the client.