New Professional Conduct Rules for Inhouse Counsel

It will be a matter of interest to in-house counsel that with effect from 1 January 2011 the new Legal Professional Conduct Rules (Conduct Rules) came into effect in Western Australia.  Those rules are made under the Legal Profession Act 2008 and apply to all legal practitioners, including in-house counsel and whether they are an Australian lawyer, an Australian Registered Foreign Lawyer or an Overseas Registered Foreign Lawyer, who are engaged in legal practice in Western Australia.

By Rule 21 the rules apply to practitioners who are employed other than by a legal practice.  Those practitioners must comply with the Conduct Rules.  Breach of the Conduct Rules may constitute unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct and attract sanctions.

The Conduct Rules confirm the key obligations of practitioners, including a paramount duty to the Court and to the administration of justice, which prevails to the extent of any inconsistency with any other duty, including a duty owed to a client, a duty of loyalty to the practitioner’s client, a duty of confidentiality and a duty of candour.

The restatement of the obligation of a paramount duty to the Court and the administration of justice is always difficult for practitioners, particularly those in an in-house role where their client may be their employer.  The Conduct Rules confirm that practitioners must be fearless in discharging their obligations.

The Conduct Rules also confirm that conduct outside of a practitioner’s professional life may be relevant to the practitioner’s maintenance of professional integrity.

For those in-house counsel who wish to have a more detailed briefing, Lavan Legal is holding a seminar on 24 March 2011.  It will attract 1 CPD point (value).  To register for this event please email Jasmin Novak on lavanlegal2@lavanlegal.com.au or call her on (08) 9288 6862.

For further information on this article, please contact Partner Iain Freeman on (08) 9288 6759 / iain.freeman@lavanlegal.com.au.