08 November 2019

Conduct policies “not fit for purpose”

Firms collaborate to highlight importance of professional ethics and personal conduct and say policies are outdated at many firms.

Ince and Pinsent Masons collaborated to host a panel discussion and seminar for law industry leaders on the changing legal regulatory landscape of professional ethics and personal conduct standards for law firms.

Outdated policies

Much discussion focused on the increased reporting requirements on both individuals and law firms, with the introduction of the new standards and regulations due imminently.  Guidance was provided on steps firms can take today, in advance of a round of thematic anti-harassment firm visits now being undertaken by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).  These included conducting independent investigations of internal processes, refreshing personal conduct policies and promoting the appointment of trusted guardians to help maintain standards at social events. Alex Ktorides, head of risk management and ethics at Ince stated “Many firms’ policies remain outdated and are frankly not fit for purpose. We hope this session will show attendees not just how, but why it is important that every firm, no matter what size or industry, has a role to play in improve the ethics and conduct of all staff.” Samantha Palmer, head of professional practices at Pinsent Masons said “Firms need to foster cultures where staff are encouraged to call out poor behaviour.  To ensure integrity of process, independent investigations are best practice in circumstances where we have already seen too many attempts to brush concerns under the carpet.”

Complaints

The seminar and discussion was jointly led by Ms Palmer and Mr Ktorides. The discussion highlighted the new SRA standards and regulations, the SRA’s key priorities and enforcement strategy and what law firms should be putting in place now to ensure their policies are fit for purpose. Any abuse of power or authority from senior individuals within law firms will be a breach of integrity and may also damage the trust the public places in the profession.  With increased reporting around harassment the SRA have a dedicated team assessing complaints. From 25th November, the reduced burden of proof in the SDT is also likely to result in higher conviction rates. Ince and Pinsent Masons plan to host further professional ethics and personal conduct seminars in the near future.