An Accredited Paralegal should be familiar with and comply with the standards of conduct. These are based on the same standards of conduct expected of solicitors.
1. Honesty and personal integrity
Accredited Paralegals must act with honesty and integrity at all times. This duty applies not just towards clients but to all people that Accredited Paralegals deal with, including the courts, witnesses, and all others in the legal profession.
Accredited Paralegals must behave in a way which shows that they have personal integrity and are fit to carry out the duties of an Accredited Paralegal.
Accredited Paralegals must keep their client’s business confidential. There is no time limit to this obligation and only the client, Parliament or the court can override this duty.
Confidentiality does not apply when a client indicates to their Accredited Paralegal that they intend to commit a crime.
3. The interests of the client
Accredited Paralegals must act in their client’s best interests, although they must balance this duty with:
(a) The duties that they have to others such as the courts and others in the legal profession
(b) Their duty to remain independent
(c) The law
(d) The principles set out in these standards.
Sometimes there is a conflict between the client’s wishes and an Accredited Paralegal’s other duties. On these occasions, Accredited Paralegals, may have to refuse to do what a client asks. Accredited Paralegals must put the interests of their clients before their own, their supervising solicitor or those of their firm.
4. Professional fees
The fees charged by Accredited Paralegals must be fair and reasonable. A reasonable fee will take account of:
(a) The amount of work and the time involved (including how complicated, difficult or novel the matter is)
(b) The level of specialised knowledge, responsibility and supervision needed
(c) The length, number and importance of any documents which need to be prepared or read
(d) The place where and the circumstances in which the work is done
(e) The urgency of the case
(f) The amount of money or value of any property involved.
5. Proper instructions
Accredited Paralegals can only work on their client’s behalf when:
(a) They have their client’s permission
(b) They are responding to an instruction from a court with authority in the matter
(c) Routine work cannot progress when it is impossible or impractical to get the client’s permission.
Accredited Paralegals must not carry out work for a client if it is illegal or contrary to their professional standards. However, they can advise clients what the law is and what the consequences of any suggested course of action could be. When Accredited Paralegals agree to carry out work for a client, this does not mean they support or agree with their client’s political, social or moral views or activities.
6. Competence, diligence and appropriate skills
Accredited Paralegals must have the relevant legal knowledge and skill to provide a competent and professional service. They must be thorough and prepared in all their work and should only agree to work for a client when they can do this adequately and completely within a reasonable period of time.
7. Effective communication
Accredited Paralegals must communicate clearly and effectively with their clients. Information should be comprehensive and, where necessary, confirmed in writing using clear and simple language. This allows the client to make informed decisions about the work being carried out or the advice being given.
Information that Accredited Paralegals must communicate to their clients:
(a) Details of work to be carried out
(b) Costs, including fees
(c) Any significant development - in particular, Accredited Paralegals should inform clients in writing when it becomes known that the cost of work will be significantly more than was estimated.
(d) Who will carry out the work
8. Relations with the legal profession
Much of the work of Accredited Paralegals involves solicitors and others within the legal profession.
Accredited Paralegals must treat each other, solicitors and others within the legal profession with mutual respect and trust. This respect and trust includes not communicating directly with each other’s clients.
When providing a legal service, an Accredited Paralegal must be independent and must not be influenced by inappropriate or illegal considerations. These include the possibility of unreasonable pressure being put on the Accredited Paralegal.
10. Disclosure of interest
When Accredited Paralegals are consulted about matters in which they have a personal interest, they must report that interest to their supervising solicitor and explain that there is a potential conflict of interest to the client. This will let the client decide whether or not they want the Accredited Paralegal to continue working for them.
If the personal interest is significant and an Accredited Paralegal’s advice could be affected by it, the Accredited Paralegal must advise their supervising solicitor and decline to work for the client and advise them to look for another solicitor.
Accredited Paralegals must make information available to their clients about any payments they receive for referring clients to others such as mortgage brokers.
11. Drafting a will
Accredited Paralegals must not write a will for a client where they (or anyone close to them such as a spouse or business partner) will benefit from that will.
There are exceptions such as an Accredited Paralegal writing a will for his/her spouse, or when only a token is left to the Accredited Paralegal or supervising solicitor, but in general, where these situations arise, the Accredited Paralegal must advise the client to use another firm of solicitors.
12. Relations with the courts
Accredited Paralegals must behave with respect towards the court and must state the law and the facts honestly and accurately.
Accredited Paralegals have a duty to the court to help ensure that those who give evidence only give truthful and honest statements which they can accurately remember.
Accredited Paralegals must treat all those in court with the appropriate respect and courtesy. For example - other legal professionals, witnesses, court officials etc
13. Conflict of interest
Accredited Paralegals cannot work for two or more clients where there is a conflict between the interests of those clients. Equally, an Accredited Paralegal cannot work for a client when there is a conflict between the interest of the client and the Accredited Paralegal or supervising solicitor. This also applies to other organisations that Accredited Paralegals work for.
Where there is a conflict of interest, Accredited Paralegals must report this to their supervising solicitor and must inform all the clients involved. Even where there is only a possible conflict of interest, Accredited Paralegals should notify their supervising solicitor and be very careful. In certain situations, where there is only a potential conflict of interest, Accredited Paralegals might be able to work for both clients if there is full knowledge and agreement by both.
14. Withdrawing from acting if instructions are accepted
Accredited Paralegals, under the instruction of their supervising solicitor, must have a good reason if they intend to stop working for a client. When Accredited Paralegals do stop working for a client, they or their supervising solicitor should inform the client of the reason. Accredited Paralegals or their supervising solicitor should give their client reasonable notice that they will no longer work for them and that they should seek another source of legal advice.
Accredited Paralegals must not discriminate on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation in their professional dealings with other lawyers, clients, employees or others.