Since my days as Complaints Counsel with the Law Society, I’ve had a keen interest in legal ethics. To feed this interest and fill a gap in content on our blog, each Wednesday I will highlight a particular ethical issue, resource or hot news item. This week I get back to basics and talk about our ethical obligations as lawyers and how the Law Society provides guidance to the profession.
As lawyers, understanding our ethical obligations is paramount to our practice. The preface of our Code of Professional Conduct states:
The Rule of Law is a cornerstone of the Constitution and Canadian society. Lawyers are essential participants in a justice system that advances the Rule of Law. They represent the interests of their clients, are members of a profession and are officers of the Court. They enjoy a unique and privileged position in society. Lawyers have a professional and ethical responsibility to serve their clients, the profession and the judicial system in terms that protect and promote their clients and the public interest.
The responsibility and authority to regulate lawyers has been delegated by government to the Law Society. The governing standards of the legal profession are contained in The Legal Profession Act, the Rules of the Law Society of Saskatchewan and the Code of Professional Conduct. The Code, in particular, clearly outlines our obligations but there are some “grey area” ethical issues that require discussion. In this situation, our Ethics Committee can be of assistance.
The Ethics Committee is comprised of several Benchers who meet at most Convocations. The Committee reviews specific fact situations involving lawyers that fall within the ethical “grey area” and makes Professional Conduct Rulings that are published anonymously as guidance for the profession. These fact situations can either come before the Committee as a request for ruling by members or as a complaint brought forward by the public. If a member needs immediate assistance with an ethical issue, we ask that they contact the Law Society for guidance.
Some of you may remember these Professional Conduct Rulings from the Professional Conduct Handbook the Law Society used to provide to all Law Society members. The print Handbook has long since been discontinued and Professional Conduct Rulings are now housed online on our website in a searchable Professional Conduct Rulings database. The database contains rulings back to 1979 and is searchable by keyword, Code provision, and date. We also publish recent rulings in our Law Society newsletter, the Bencher’s Digest.
For further assistance with legal ethics, please also see the following Law Society resources: