Solicitors and the Code of Conduct

The legal profession encompasses many different roles and the term ‘lawyer’ can be used to mean a plethora of job titles. In simple terms, there are two key types of lawyer: barristers and solicitors. This blog post is solely focused on solicitors, and the varying roles commonly found within a typical solicitors’ office. Legal professionals, such as solicitors are overseen by governing bodies and must adhere to various rules in order for them to continue to practise. This post will focus on the professional conduct rules for solicitors, and the different job roles you might find in a solicitors’ firm.

Code of Conduct

Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SRA is responsible for regulating everything from training to be a solicitor, to dealing with how solicitors firms are run. Within the SRA Handbook, 10 principles are set down which are mandatory and apply to everyone who is regulated by the SRA, as well the Solicitors Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct section includes Outcomes which must be achieved, usually by acting in light of the Indicative Behaviours.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority website can be found here:

The Solicitors Regulation Authority Handbook can be found here:

Chapter 1 of the Code of Conduct, within the SRA Handbook, is concerned with Client Care. This chapter is about providing a proper standard of service, taking into account the individual differences of each and every client. This includes ensuring that the client is given all the information they require to make informed decisions about the services they require, how they will be delivered and the costs involved. This chapter also deals with complaints handling.

The Outcomes which must be achieved in this chapter are lengthy. Examples of the Outcomes include:

  • Outcome 1.1 – You treat your clients fairly.
  • Outcome 1.4 – You have the resources, skills and procedures to carry out your clients’ instructions.
  • Outcome 1.9 – Clients are informed in writing at the outset of their matter of their right to complain and how complaints can be made.
  • Outcome 1.12 – Clients are in a position to make informed decisions about the services they need, or how their matter will be handled and the options available to them.

This list is non-exhaustive and includes 16 individual Outcomes, all of which must be satisfied.

The way in which a solicitor acts can suggest that they satisfy the Outcomes. These are known as Indicative Behaviours which accompany each chapter of the Code of Conduct. For example, one of the Indicative Behaviours for chapter one is:

  • Indicative Behaviour 1.3 – Ensuring that the client is told, in writing, the name and status of the person(s) dealing with the matter and the name and status of the person responsible for its overall supervision.

Many solicitors firms include these details in their client care letters. These are usually the first correspondence that you would receive from a solicitor, and tend to include information on client care.

Different roles with a law firm 

The aim of this section is to briefly highlight the various roles which are commonly found within a solicitors’ firm.

Partner: Law firms are generally partnerships and are therefore owned and managed by a partner. Partnership tends to be the ultimate ambition of an individual entering the legal profession and can be considered as the highest step on the career ladder. Partners are the owners of a firm, and therefore take a proportion of profits generated by the firm.

Associate/Senior Associate Solicitor: An associate is a fully qualified solicitor who is an employee of the firm. This usually means that this individual is working under the supervision of a Partner, or a more senior associate. These solicitors tend to work on a fixed salary. This role can also be considered to be a ‘fee-earner’, in that the work that they do generates the income of the firm. Levels of seniority are usually dependant on how much experience or expertise in an area that individual has. As a newly qualified associate in a firm, the next logical step would be increased seniority to become a ‘senior associate’ (if such a role exists within that particular firm), followed by partnership.

Trainee Solicitor: In order to become an associate in a law firm, an individual must secure and complete a training contract, or a period of recognised training within a law firm. An individual in the process of completing one of these will be known as a trainee solicitor. A period of recognised training tends to last 2 years and involves the individual ‘rotating’ around the various areas of law which the firm offers.

Paralegal/Legal assistant: This role is essentially that of an individual who carries out legal work that does not strictly have the status of a solicitor as they have not completed a training contract.

Chartered Legal Executive: Chartered Legal Executives are individuals which usually have the same expertise as a solicitor, but have simply chosen a different route to qualification.

Legal Secretary: Legal secretaries carry out administrative work for solicitors. Legal secretaries aren’t required to have any official legal qualification.

This post was written by Robert Bayles. Robert is a final year MLaw student currently working in the business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. On graduation Robert aspires to secure a training contract within an in-house legal department of a company. Outside of law, Robert enjoys everything related to football specifically, as well as most other sports.

 

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