University of Exeter research is helping to inform new work to promote better ethical conduct among lawyers.
The Legal Services Board is using analysis by Professor Richard Moorhead, along with co-authors Steven Vaughan and Kenta Tsuda, as it continues efforts to boost standards.
The work follows on from concerns about the misuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and the use of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) which can negatively impact those with valid legal claims, journalists, campaigners or victims, as well as other recent high-profile cases of legal professionals falling short of the standards expected by the public include the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.
The Legal Services Board’s “Professional Ethics, Rule of Law, and Regulation” programme seeks to promote the rule of law and promote and maintain adherence to the professional principles to ensure high quality legal services.
Evidence has been collected during the past 18 months, including a literature review produced by a team including Professor Moorhead and a call for evidence. The literature review calls for a significantly strengthened regulatory focus on ethics is a fundamental part of the integrity of the system.
The Board will now carry out further work to explore the extent to which regulators’ existing rules and codes of conduct adequately address professional ethical misconduct and to consider whether further regulatory intervention may be necessary to better incentivise and support legal professionals to identify, navigate and respond to professional ethical issues.
The Board is now working to explore and gain consensus across the sector on what upholding the rule of law means for expectations of professional ethical conduct of legal professionals. It is also exploring the role of leadership in the sector to improve professional ethical decision-making in practice and promoting better responses to specific manifestations of poor conduct.
Evidence gathered by LSB shows there are already areas where regulation may need to be strengthened. This includes knowledge among solicitors, reporting obligations and complacency about the literature ethical failure.