Draft Codes and Standards

Developing and revising WLA codes and standards will occur year-round.

Governing Council Members will contribute their professional expertise to develop best practices for the awareness for those who are not aware of their legal rights or those who can not afford to defend their right for justice, while reflecting best practices of industry. The results of their efforts will be used in over 100 nations; thus setting the standard for code-development worldwide.

In an effort to continuously improve the working relationship between clients and professionals, WLA is developing a series of best practices. These best practice resources provide effective approach to common issues and practical suggestions for both clients and their advisers.

In today’s global business, the regulations that guide business have become far more numerous and complex. Regulatory authorities share information with each other more frequently, are increasingly aggressive about enforcement, and are adamant about their expectation of accountability for business conduct around the world.In response to the growing body of global knowledge concerning how to address and prevent fraud and corruption in business, WLA has adopted best practice to provide practical suggestions to enable corporations and their law firm advisors to develop effective compliance programs that will avoid, detect, and remedy wrongdoing, especially fraud and corruption.

Purpose and Scope

The Code of Professional Practice is a part of the Constitution of WLA and is binding on every WLA member.

It is intended to be a set of guidelines for acceptable methods of practice within the WLA Universe, and lays down the standards of integrity, professionalism and confidentiality which all members of the Association shall be bound to respect in their work. These principles should provide guidelines to those working in this area and could also be used as guidelines for self-assessment and as a quality improvement tool.

In the membership context, the failure to comply with the rules of the Association embodied in the said Code of Professional Practice may result in the imposition of penalties in accordance with the regulations of Disciplinary Procedure and may even result in the expulsion of the defaulting member from the WLA Universe.

Code

As an WLA member you must uphold and advance the honour, dignity and effectiveness of being a professional. This entails, in addition to being a good citizen and acting within the law, your adherence to the following Lawrel Winners values:

The Primacy of the Public Interest You will place the interests of the public above those of personal, business or sectional interests.The Enhancement of Quality of Life You will strive to enhance the quality of life of those affected by your work.Honesty You will be honest in your representation of skills, knowledge, services and products.This Code applies to all WLA members regardless of their role or specific area of expertise.The Code of Conduct

These guidelines are not exhaustive and should not be read as a complete definition of acceptable professional conduct in all practical situations. The intention is to illustrate what constitutes ethical and professional conduct under the Code of Ethics. You are expected to take into account the spirit of the Code in order to resolve ambiguous or contentious issues concerning professional conduct. WLA will always try to help you to resolve ethical dilemmas whenever they present themselves, and a confidential consultation can be organised if you ever find yourself in a difficult position.

The Primacy of the Public Interest

In the context of the Code of Ethics, the public interest takes precedence over personal, private and sectional interests, and any conflicts should be resolved in favour of the public interest. In your work, you should safeguard the interests of your immediate stakeholders, provided that these interests do not conflict with the duty and loyalty you owe to the public. The public interest is taken to include matters of public health, safety and the environment.

In accordance with this value you will:
identify those potentially impacted by your work and explicitly consider their interests;raise with stakeholders any potential conflicts between your professional activity and legal or other accepted public requirements;advise your stakeholders as soon as possible of any conflicts of interest or conscientious objections that you have;take into consideration the fact that your profession traverses many other professions, and has implications for other social systems and organisations;endeavour to preserve the integrity, security, continuity and utility of professional and legal services;respect the intellectual property of others; andendeavour to preserve the confidentiality and privacy of the information of others.

The Enhancement of Quality of Life

The development of professional and legal services has had a significant impact on society and our way of life. Whilst this impact has been beneficial to a very great extent, like all technologies ,professional and legal services has also had some negative effects, and will continue to do so. An ethical approach to your work will help to recognise and minimise these adverse effects. You should promote equal access to the benefits of professional and legal services by all members of society.

In accordance with this value you will:

recognise, in your work, the role that professional and legal services can play to enhance the quality of life of people, particularly the disadvantaged or those with disabilities;protect and promote the health and safety of those affected by your work;understand, and give due regard to, the perceptions of those affected by your work; andattempt to increase the feelings of personal satisfaction, competence, and control of those affected by your work.

Honesty

Do not breach public trust in the profession or the specific trust of your stakeholders. Observance of utmost honesty and integrity must underlie all your professional decisions and actions. Circumstances will undoubtedly arise during the course of your professional career where it may appear to be beneficial for you to be deceptive in some way. This type of behaviour is not acceptable professional conduct.

In accordance with this value you will:

reject, and will not make, any offer of bribe or inducement;not knowingly mislead a client or potential client as to the suitability of a product or service;distinguish between your professional and personal opinions and advice;give realistic estimates for projects under your control;qualify professional opinions which you know are based on limited knowledge or experience;give credit for work done by others where credit is due; and not attempt to enhance your own reputation at the expense of another person’s reputation.

Competence

Accept only such work as you believe you are competent to perform, and do not hesitate to obtain additional expertise from appropriately qualified individuals where advisable. You should always be aware of your own limitations and not knowingly imply that you have competence you do not possess. This is distinct from accepting a task of which the successful completion requires expertise additional to your own. You cannot possibly be knowledgeable on all facets of professional and legal services but you should be able to recognise when you need additional expertise and information.

In accordance with this value you will:

endeavour to provide products and services which match the operational and financial needs of your stakeholders;not misrepresent your skills or knowledge;make yourself aware of relevant standards and legislation, and act accordingly;respect and protect your stakeholders’ proprietary interests;advise your stakeholders when you believe a proposed project, product or service is not in their best interest;accept responsibility for your work; and respect, and seek when necessary, the professional expertise of colleagues in their areas of competence.

Professional Development

Keep yourself informed of such new technologies, practices and standards as are relevant to your work. Others will expect you to provide special skills and advice; and in order to do so, you must keep your knowledge up-to-date. You should encourage your colleagues and staff to do the same. Take action to ensure that your hard-won knowledge and experience are passed on in such a way that the recipients not only improve their own effectiveness in their present work but also become keen to advance their capabilities and take on additional responsibilities.

In accordance with this value you will:

continue to upgrade your knowledge and skills;increase your awareness of issues affecting the profession and its relationship with the public;encourage your colleagues, staff and students to continue their own professional development; and support education, training and professional development in professional and legal services that reflects the diverse needs of individual professionals and their various career paths.

Professionalism

The professional and legal services industry is relatively new and characterised by rapid change. It has not had the opportunity to evolve over many decades and acquire its own standards and legislation. WLA is endeavouring to improve public confidence in the professional and legal services industry. It is imperative that professional grade members of WLA maintain professional standards that improve and enhance the industry’s image, especially in the workplace.

All people have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. Discrimination is unprofessional behaviour, as is any form of harassment. Members should be aware that WLA can help them resolve ethical dilemmas. It can also provide support for taking appropriate action, including whistle-blowing, if you discover any WLA member or employer engaging in unethical behaviour.

In accordance with this value you will:

take a calm, objective, informed and knowledgeable stance on your professional work, complementing your enthusiasm and engagement in it;take appropriate action against members who engage in behaviour contrary to the Code of Ethics;confront attempts to limit diversity in the workplace, and ensure that opportunities for employment, advancement, remuneration and other working conditions are based on the actual skills and performance of employees, free of stereotypes and prejudices;note that the corporate actions of WLA are subject to this Code, and you should do whatever you can to ensure that WLA and its officer bearers and staff meet this obligation;neither require, nor attempt to influence, any person to take any action which would involve a breach of the Code of Ethics;refrain from any conduct or action in your professional role which may tarnish the image of the profession or detract from the good name of WLA; endeavour to extend public knowledge and understanding of professional and legal services;cooperate in advancing professional and legal services by communication with other professionals, students and the public; and have pride in your profession, and protect and promote professionalism and trustworthiness in professional and legal services.

Professional responsibility violations in general

Conflicts of interest

This occurs where the same lawyer or firm is representing both sides in a lawsuit, or previously represented one side. In countries with the adversarial system of justice, a conflict of interest violates the right of each client to the undivided, zealous loyalty of his lawyer. Conflicts may also occur if the lawyer’s ability to represent a client is materially limited by the lawyer’s loyalty to another client, a personal relationship, or other reasons.

Incompetent representation

Attorneys have a duty to provide competent representation, and the failure to observe deadlines or conduct thorough research is considered a breach of ethics.

Mishandling of client money

Clients often advance money to lawyers for a variety of reasons. The money must be kept in special client trust accounts untill it is actually earned by the lawyer or spent on court fees or other expenses.

Disclosure of confidential information

Lawyers are under a strict duty of confidentiality to keep information received in the course of their representations secret. Absent law to the contrary, lawyers may not reveal or use this information to the detriment of their clients.

Communication with represented parties

An attorney may not communicate directly with a person who they know to be represented by counsel with respect to a matter for which the attorney is seeking to communicate. For example, in a civil suit, the plaintiff’s attorney may not speak to the defendant directly if the attorney knows that the defendant is represented by counsel without their attorney’s express consent.

Relevance To Law

The Code of Ethics has relevance to professional standards legislation. Failure to abide by the Code could be used as grounds for a claim of professional negligence. The Code may be quoted by an expert witness giving an assessment of professional conduct. Failure to observe the Code could also lead to disciplinary action by WLA.