Ethics guidance

Acting with integrity

Issued on 23 July 2019 | Effective from 25 November 2019

Effective from 25 November 2019

This guidance relates to rules coming into force on the 25 November 2019. The current guidance should continue to be used until that date.

Go to the Standards and Regulations Beta

How solicitors can work

Under the new regulations solicitors will be able to work, and offer services to the public, in a number of different ways.

Status

This guidance is to help you understand your obligations and how to comply with them. We may have regard to it when exercising our regulatory functions.

Who is this guidance for?

All SRA regulated firms, their principals, role holders and employees.

All solicitors registered European lawyers or registered foreign lawyers.

Purpose of this guidance

To explain the requirement to act with integrity in SRA Principle 5.

Lack of integrity vs dishonesty

SRA Principle 5 requires you to act with integrity. Whilst someone acting dishonestly can be said to be acting without integrity, the concept of integrity is wider than just acting dishonestly (see SRA Principle 4: Act with honesty and associated guidance).

This means that it is possible to behave without integrity without necessarily being dishonest.

The meaning of integrity has been considered several times by the courts in recent years. The most recent cases were that of Wingate and another v SRA and Malins v SRA1, considered together by the Court of Appeal in 2018.

Case background: Facts of the Wingate and Malins cases

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When are we are likely to take action for lack of integrity?

Cases where we are likely to take disciplinary action for lack of integrity:

  • Where there has been a wilful or reckless disregard of standards, rules, legal requirements and obligations or ethics, including an indifference to what the applicable provisions are or to the impacts or consequences of a breach.
  • Where the regulated firm or individual has taken unfair advantage of clients or third parties or allowed others to do so.
  • Where the regulated firm or individual has knowingly or recklessly caused harm or distress to another.
  • Where clients or third parties have been misled or allowed to be misled (except where this is a result of simple error that the regulated firm or individual has corrected as soon as they became aware of it).

If the circumstances of a case demonstrate dishonesty on the part of the regulated firm or individual, then we will take action for breach of SRA Principle 4 (Act with honesty). However, we may also take action for lack of integrity, particularly where allegations are contested and therefore pleaded in the alternative.

Example cases

The examples below are all cases which illustrate the principles outlined above where we took disciplinary action against the solicitor(s) involved on grounds of acting without integrity and this conclusion was subsequently upheld by a court.2  

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Further guidance

See our case study on acting without integrity.

Further help

If you require further assistance, please contact the Professional Ethics helpline.

  1. 2018 ECWA Civ 3666
  2. These cases were also quoted as examples by Lord Justice Jackson in Wingate and another v SRA and Malins v SRA