Last Updated 19 December 2016
Lawyers are required to conform to a wide range of professional and ethical standards. The conduct of solicitors is supervised by the Queensland Law Society (QLS) and the Legal Services Commission (LSC), which is governed by the Legal Profession Act 2007 (Qld). There are also a number of other rules and regulations that regulate the conduct of solicitors, including the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules. Barristers are governed by the Bar Association of Queensland, the LSC and the Barristers’ Conduct Rules 2016.
There are a number of requirements that solicitors must satisfy:
- Solicitors have a responsibility to act in the best interests of the client. Solicitors must not allow themselves to be placed in a position where they face a conflict of interest between serving the client’s interests and their own or others’ interests. If this accidentally happens, a solicitor should immediately notify the client and withdraw from the case.
- Solicitors must act in a timely and professional manner, and they are bound to keep their dealings with clients confidential. This means, with very limited exceptions, that a solicitor cannot reveal what a client has told them without permission from that client.
- Solicitors must act within the terms and scope of their retainer (the agreement they have with the client), and are subject to any legal or ethical obligations; they are required to carry out the lawful instructions of their client, even if the solicitor does not agree with those instructions. However, where the client’s instructions would involve the solicitor in a breach of their duty to the court, the duty to the court prevails.
- Solicitors are not bound to run a legal case if the client does not pay the bill; however, the solicitor is also not necessarily allowed to simply withdraw from a case at short notice if this will unfairly prejudice the client. This is important in criminal law matters, and the court applies certain restrictions on lawyers withdrawing from matters once court proceedings have commenced.