Version 16 of the Handbook was published on 1 April 2016. For more information, please click "History" above.
These are mandatory Principles which apply to all.
The Principles embody the key ethical requirements on firms and individuals who are involved in the provision of legal services. You should always have regard to the Principles and use them as your starting point when faced with an ethical dilemma.
Where two or more Principles come into conflict, the Principle which takes precedence is the one which best serves the public interest in the particular circumstances, especially the public interest in the proper administration of justice.
apply to individuals and firms we regulate, whether traditional firms of solicitors or ABSs, in private practice or in-house. Where a firm or individual is practising overseas, the Overseas Principles apply;
will be breached by you if you permit another person to do anything on your behalf which if done by you would breach the Principles; and
apply to you to the fullest extent if a sole practitioner or manager in a firm, but still apply to you if you work within a firm or in-house and have no management responsibility (for example, even if you are not a manager you may have an opportunity to influence, adopt and implement measures to comply with Principles 8 and 9).
Compliance with the Principles is also subject to any overriding legal obligations.
You have obligations not only to clients but also to the court and to third parties with whom you have dealings on your clients' behalf - see, e.g., Chapter 5 (Your client and the court) and Chapter 11 (Relations with third parties) of the Code.
Personal integrity is central to your role as the client's trusted adviser and should characterise all your professional dealings with clients, the court, other lawyers and the public.
"Independence" means your own and your firm's independence, and not merely your ability to give independent advice to a client. You should avoid situations which might put your independence at risk - e.g. giving control of your practice to a third party which is beyond the regulatory reach of the SRA or other approved regulator.
You should always act in good faith and do your best for each of your clients. Most importantly, you should observe:
your duty of confidentiality to the client - see Chapter 4 (Confidentiality and disclosure) of the Code; and
your obligations with regard to conflicts of interests - see Chapter 3 (Conflicts of interests) of the Code.
You should, e.g., provide a proper standard of client care and of work. This would include exercising competence, skill and diligence, and taking into account the individual needs and circumstances of each client.
For a solicitor, meeting the competencies set out in the Competence Statement forms an integral part of the requirement to provide a proper standard of service.
Members of the public should be able to place their trust in you. Any behaviour either within or outside your professional practice which undermines this trust damages not only you, but also the ability of the legal profession as a whole to serve society.
You should, e.g., ensure that you comply with all the reporting and notification requirements - see Chapter 10 (You and your regulator) of the Code - and respond promptly and substantively to communications.
Whether you are a manager or an employee, you have a part to play in helping to ensure that your business is well run for the benefit of your clients and, e.g. in meeting the outcomes in Chapter 7 (Management of your business) of the Code.
Whether you are a manager or an employee, you have a role to play in achieving the outcomes in Chapter 2 (Equality and diversity) of the Code. Note that a finding of unlawful discrimination outside practice could also amount to a breach of Principles 1 and 6.
This Principle goes to the heart of the duty to act in the best interests of your clients. You should play your part in e.g. protecting money, documents or other property belonging to your clients which has been entrusted to you or your firm.
Our approach to enforcement is proportionate, outcomes-focused and risk-based. Therefore, how we deal with failure to comply with the Principles will depend on all the particular circumstances of each case. Our primary aim is to achieve the right outcomes for clients.