The basis of voluntary regulation of Paralegals is defined in the Code of Conduct, The Paralegal Practitioners Rules and The Paralegal Practising Certificate Rules.
The guidance provided here on ethics is designed to help you consider how you can fulfil your obligations under the above regulatory rules.
Client’s information and affairs must be kept confidential at all times. To fulfil this requirement under Rule 2, Code of Conduct, you should consider:
- that unless disclosure is required by law or the client consents to disclosure of his affairs to third parties, all information should be maintained as confidential.
- whether you have procedures in place to effectively identify any risks to client confidentiality and whether it is possible to mitigate those risks
- the requirements of legislation that protects clients data
Conflicts of Interest
You should always ensure that you work in your client’s best interests. This is an obligation under Rule 2, Code of Conduct.
This requires you to consider any potential conflicts of interests. A conflict may occur when you are asked to assist with a client’s legal matter when you have been instructed by an opposing party. You should use the ‘on-looker perception test’ to aid you. This is where as an on-looker would you consider that a conflict of interest exists or may exist. If you have any doubt you should contact your recognised membership body for advice.
Professional Indemnity Insurance
PII insurance is required to protect you and your client. It is mandatory if you are Tier 2 and above and offering services to the general public. You will need a Paralegal Practising Certificate which cannot be issued until you provide evidence of your PII cover. This cover must include loss of documents cover. The PII must be for a minimum of £1 million GBP.
The PPR cannot give financial advice and cannot recommend an insurer.
This is governed by Rule 9. Accounts Rules, contained in the Paralegal Practitioner’s Rules.
Paralegals can ONLY hold money for the purposes of disbursements or payment of your professional fees.
You should ensure that your clients are aware of Rule 9 within your Terms of Business.
Terms of Business
You must ensure that you have communicated effectively with your client at the initial stage to ensure that they are aware of the work you will undertake for them and the cost of that service.
It is suggested that you do this via a well written client care latter or a well drafted set of terms of business.
You should have a system in place that allows you to keep the client informed of progress at regular intervals.
Keeping PPR Informed
To fulfil your obligations under Rule 6, Code of Conduct, you should have systems in place that will allow you to deal promptly in response to a request for information by the PPR.
You should also ensure that you keep PPR updated of any changes to your circumstances that could affect your membership of the PPR. If you are in any doubt, you should contact the PPR immediately.
Advertising and Promotion
This is governed by Rule 12, Paralegal Practitioner’s Rules and Rule 1, Code of Conduct.
You should consider the requirements of The Equality Act 2010 when engaging in advertising or promotion.
You must also be familiar with the statutory requirements and codes provided by The Advertising Standards Authority and other bodies.
It is your responsibility to ensure that any advertising or promotion of services is accompanied by prices or fees to include any taxes.
You should at all times act in a manner that promotes trust and confidence in you as a paralegal and as the profession as a whole.