Effective Date:  23rd March 2018

Introduction

This Code of Conduct must be read in conjunction with the Paralegal Practitioners’ Rules.

This Code of Conduct (“Code”) is made pursuant to the principles contained in the Legal Services Act 2007 (“LSA”). This code takes effect on the effective date above as designated by the Professional Paralegal Register (“PPR”).  This Code sets out the principles which you must follow as a member of the PPR and is in addition to any membership body requirements.

In the event of any conflict with the code of conduct and the Paralegal Practitioners’ Rules or the Practising Certificate Rules, (PPR Rules) then the PPR Rules will apply.

As a member of the PPR, you are a person under voluntary regulation of the PPR and able to carry out work as outlined in any Paralegal Practising Certificate issued by the PPR.  Trainee members (Tier 1) do not have Paralegal Practising Certificates.

The following activities are Reserved Activities and cannot be undertaken by Paralegals.

Reserved Legal Activities:

  • the exercise of rights of audience (i.e. appearing as an advocate before a court);
  • the conduct of litigation (i.e. issuing proceedings before a court and commencing, prosecuting or defending those proceedings);
  • reserved instrument activities (i.e. dealing with the transfer of land or property under specific legal provisions);
  • probate activities (i.e. obtaining grant or letters of administration);
  • notarial activities (i.e. work governed by the Public Notaries Act 1801); and
  • the administration of oaths (i.e. taking oaths, swearing affidavits etc.).

There are other prohibitions on paralegals in addition to the reserved activities work, e.g.:

  1. a) Giving immigration and asylum advice and assistance unless

registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner, or exempt from having to be so registered;

  1. b) Undertaking any of the activities in the practice areas covered by the

Compensation Act 2006 unless registered with the Claims Management regulations division of the Ministry of Justice, or exempt from having to be so registered (NB: the legislation is intended to regulate the activities of claims management companies, but is so widely drafted that it captures many Paralegal Law Firms too);

  1. c) Undertaking police station representation work on a case funded under

the legal aid scheme without having due accreditation;

  1. d) Providing or advising on financial services.

These guidelines relate solely to the six areas designated as reserved activities under the Act.

There are some exemptions, or exceptions to the prohibition on carrying out reserved legal activities, the exemptions listed below are not exhaustive.

  1. Reserved instrument activities or probate activities may be carried out

if the activities are not carried out for, or in expectation of, any fee, gain or reward.

2. A court may grant to an unregulated person the right to conduct

litigation and or exercise a right of audience in a particular set of proceedings, however this is at the Court’s discretion.

  1. Lay representatives have a right of audience in the small claims track

under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).  Members should ensure that they are fully familiar and compliant with the provisions of the CPR before exercising any such rights.

As a member of the PPR you must:

  1. Act with integrity and professionalism.
  2. Act in the best interests of your client taking due care skill and diligence.
  3. Undertake work and service for each client with due skill, care and diligence.
  4. Comply with your duty to the court in the administration of justice.
  5. Deal co-operatively with the PPR.
  6. Ensure equality of opportunity.
  7. Maintain financial soundness including acting under adequate professional indemnity insurance and such other insurance as required.

You must comply with the following Rules. Breach of this Code may result in disciplinary proceedings being brought against you by the PPR:

RULE 1: Act with integrity and professionalism

1.A      You must act honestly, professionally and with integrity in all your dealings in your professional life and not allow yourself to be compromised.

1.B      You must not give false or misleading information to anyone with whom you deal.

1.C      You must not be misleading or inaccurate when you publicise yourself as a Paralegal or your business.

1.D      You must not enter into any fee arrangements which are unlawful.

1.E      You must act in a way which promotes trust from the general public and in the profession of Paralegals.

1.F      You must comply with Data Protection and Privacy legislation.

RULE 2: Act in the best interests of the client

2.A      You must act at all times to ensure the client’s interest is paramount except where this conflicts with your duties to the court or where otherwise permitted by law. You must decline to act if it would not be in the client’s best interests or if that client’s interests conflict directly with your own or with those of another client.

You must keep the affairs of clients and former clients confidential unless disclosure is required or allowed by law or if the client consents in writing to disclosure, having had the consequences of such consent explained to them in writing.  You must ensure that your client is able, in your reasonable opinion, to give informed consent to waiving their right to confidentiality.

2.B      You must provide for an effective initial complaints procedure which is simple and transparent and ensures that a complaint can be made by any reasonable means, and which takes into account the individual needs of clients (in particular the needs of vulnerable clients).

2.C      You must ensure that complaints are dealt with promptly (within a maximum 6 week period from the date of receipt) openly and fairly and that appropriate provisions for redress exist.

2.D      You must advise new clients in writing when instructions are first received of the following matters.  This can be in the form of a client-care letter:

(i)      An estimate of fees / details of charging structure and where that estimate subsequently becomes inaccurate, or that charging structure changes provide an updated estimate / notice of revised charges.

(ii)     The right to complain.

(iii)    How to complain i.e. first-tier complaints handling procedure.

(iv)    The period within which you will deal with complaints under first-tier complaints handling procedure.

(v)     The client’s right to refer their complaint to the PPR Complaints Committee in the event the matter is not resolved to the satisfaction of the client, or the matter has not been resolved within 8 weeks of the complaint being made.

(vi)   Applicable time limits for referring the complaint to the PPR Complaints Committee.

(vii)   PPR Complaints Committee contact details.

2.E      You must identify and rectify any systemic client complaint issues, taking steps to do so promptly upon discovery.

2.F      You must not accept client money save for disbursements and payment of your proper professional fees. (IPW members are bound by the Provisions laid out in their Membership Rules.)

2.G     You must provide required documentation and information on an application for a paralegal practising certificate and in the event of any complaints investigation conducted by PPR.

2.H      You must ensure that you maintain professional indemnity insurance which complies with the requirements of the PPR prevailing at the time and promptly provide evidence of that insurance cover if requested by a client or the PPR.

RULE 3: Maintain financial soundness

3.A      You must run your business or carry out your role within the business in accordance with sound financial principles.

3.B      You must maintain systems and controls for monitoring the financial stability of your business and take steps to notify the PPR and address issues identified.

RULE 4: Provide a good quality of work and service to each client

4.A      You must only undertake work for which you are properly qualified. You should refer to the criteria allocated under the tier system of the PPR.

4.B      Work must be undertaken with due skill, care and attention, with proper regard for the technical standard expected of you. If you do not have the knowledge, skills or experience to undertake the work you must decline it. You should refer to the Competency Standards to ensure you are compliant.

4.C      You must ensure that you carry out your professional work in a timely manner with proper regard for standards of professional service and care.

4.D      You must comply with Rule 6 of the Paralegal Practitioners’ Rules if you are Tier 2 or above which requires you to maintain Professional Indemnity Insurance.

4.E      You must keep your professional knowledge up to date by undertaking relevant training in accordance with current Paralegal Practising Rules.

4.F      You must keep the client regularly informed as to the progress of the work and keep accurate records of that work.

4.G      You must ensure that clients are able to make informed decisions about the work being undertaken on their behalf and the cost of that work.

RULE 5: Your duty to the court in the administration of justice

5.A      You must at all times act within the law.

5.B      You must not knowingly or recklessly either mislead the court or allow the court to be misled.

5.C      You must comply with any court order which places an obligation on you and you must not be in contempt of court.

5.D      You must advise clients to comply with court orders made against them.

RULE 6: Deal with the PPR in an open & co-operative way

6.A      You must be open, honest and co-operate in your dealings with the PPR by responding to any requests promptly and fully within 14 calendar days.

6.B      You must immediately notify the PPR of any breach of this Code by yourself or other Paralegals.

6.C      You must disclose any other information about yourself which the PPR would reasonably expect to be notified.

6.D      You must not take any action to prevent anyone from reporting you to the PPR.

6.E      You acknowledge that the PPR is subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (as amended) and shall assist and co-operate with the PPR to enable the PPR to comply with any information disclosure requirements.

RULE 7: Treat everyone with dignity and respect

7.A You must treat all clients and third parties with dignity and respect. You should encourage equality of opportunity and must not unlawfully discriminate against them, either directly or indirectly, victimise or harass them on the grounds of age, disability, race, ethnic or national origin, sex, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marital status (including civil partnerships), sexual orientation, religious belief.

7.B “The PPR recognises every individuals right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.  The exercise of such freedoms may on occasion cause offence. Equal to an individual’s right to cause offense, is an individual’s right to feel offended.  It is not for the PPR to act to curtail a members social rights and freedoms, however, where we feel an individuals behaviour is incompatible with our expectation of our members, then we may chose to remove that individual from the Register”.

7.C “The PPR is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation Act 2018.  We will never sell or share your personal data unless ordered to do so by a competent authority, and only then, in association with the investigation or prevention of crime.  Where ordered to disclose a members personal data to a competent authority, the member concerned will not be given prior notice.”