Introduction to the SRA Code of Conduct

Version 19 of the Handbook was published on 1 October 2017. For more information, please click "History" above.

Introduction to the SRA Code of Conduct

Overview

Outcomes-focused regulation concentrates on providing positive outcomes which when achieved will benefit and protect clients and the public. The SRA Code of Conduct (the Code) sets out our outcomes-focused conduct requirements so that you can consider how best to achieve the right outcomes for your clients taking into account the way that your firm works and its client base. The Code is underpinned by effective, risk-based supervision and enforcement.

Those involved in providing legal advice and representation have long held the role of trusted adviser. There are fiduciary duties arising from this role and obligations owed to others, especially the court. No code can foresee or address every issue or ethical dilemma which may arise. You must strive to uphold the intention of the Code as well as its letter.

The Principles

The Code forms part of the Handbook, in which the 10 mandatory Principles are all-pervasive. They apply to all those we regulate and underpin all aspects of practice. They define the fundamental ethical and professional standards that we expect of all firms and individuals (including owners who may not be lawyers) when providing 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 one 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. Compliance with the Principles is also subject to any overriding legal obligations.

You must:

  1. uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice;
  2. act with integrity;
  3. not allow your independence to be compromised;
  4. act in the best interests of each client;
  5. provide a proper standard of service to your clients;
  6. behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services;
  7. comply with your legal and regulatory obligations and deal with your regulators and ombudsmen in an open, timely and co-operative manner;
  8. run your business or carry out your role in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles;
  9. run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity; and
  10. protect client money and assets.

Structure of the Code

The Code is divided into 5 sections:

  • You and your client
  • You and your business
  • You and your regulator
  • You and others
  • Application, waivers and interpretation

Each section is divided into chapters dealing with particular regulatory issues, for example, client care, conflicts of interests, and publicity.

These chapters show how the Principles apply in certain contexts through mandatory and non-mandatory provisions.

Mandatory provisions

The following provisions are mandatory:

  • the outcomes;
  • the application and waivers provisions in Chapters 13 and 13A;
  • the interpretations; and
  • the transitional provisions in Chapter 15.

The outcomes describe what firms and individuals are expected to achieve in order to comply with the relevant Principles in the context of the relevant chapter. In the case of in-house practice, we have set out at the end of each chapter which outcomes apply and in some cases have specified different outcomes.

In respect of in-house practice, different outcomes may apply depending on whether you are acting for your employer or for a client other than your employer as permitted by rules 4.1 to 4.10 of the SRA Practice Framework Rules.

The outcomes contained in each chapter are not an exhaustive list of the application of all the Principles. We have tried to make them as helpful as possible.

Non-mandatory provisions

The following provisions are non-mandatory:

  • indicative behaviours;
  • notes.

The outcomes are supplemented by indicative behaviours. The indicative behaviours specify, but do not constitute an exhaustive list of, the kind of behaviour which may establish compliance with, or contravention of the Principles. These are not mandatory but they may help us to decide whether an outcome has been achieved in compliance with the Principles.

We recognise that there may be other ways of achieving the outcomes. Where you have chosen a different method from those we have described as indicative behaviours, we might require you to demonstrate how you have nevertheless achieved the outcome. We encourage firms to consider how they can best achieve the outcomes, taking into account the nature of the firm, the particular circumstances of the matter and, crucially, the needs of their particular clients.

Waivers

Due to the flexibility of approach this structure allows, we do not anticipate receiving many applications for waivers from the mandatory outcomes. The SRA, nonetheless, reserves power to waive a provision in exceptional circumstances.

Interpretation

Words shown in italics are defined in the Glossary.

Sources of help

You can access the Code and other elements of the Handbook and find information on particular issues on the SRA website. You can also seek guidance on professional conduct from our Professional Ethics Guidance Team.

List of contents of the Code

1st section: You and your client

Chapter 1 Client care

Chapter 2 Equality and diversity

Chapter 3 Conflicts of interests

Chapter 4 Confidentiality and disclosure

Chapter 5 Your client and the court

Chapter 6 Your client and introductions to third parties

2nd section: You and your business

Chapter 7 Management of your business

Chapter 8 Publicity

Chapter 9 Fee sharing and referrals

3rd section: You and your regulator

Chapter 10 You and your regulator

4th section: You and others

Chapter 11 Relations with third parties

Chapter 12 Separate businesses

5th section: Application, waivers and interpretation

Chapter 13 Application and waivers provisions

Chapter 13A Practice Overseas

Chapter 14 Interpretation

Chapter 15 Transitional provisions

Preamble

The SRA Code of Conduct dated 17 June 2011 commencing 6 October 2011 made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority Board under sections 31, 79 and 80 of the Solicitors Act 1974, sections 9 and 9A of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 and section 83 of the Legal Services Act 2007, with the approval of the Legal Services Board under paragraph 19 of Schedule 4 to the Legal Services Act 2007, regulating the conduct of solicitors and their employees, registered European lawyers and their employees, registered foreign lawyers, recognised bodies and their managers and employees and licensed bodies and their managers and employees.