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Ethics and the Law

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 7 Nov 2016 |
Barristers Solicitors Rules Code Of

Barristers and solicitors are both required to work according to a set of rules that are issued by their professional regulatory bodies, called a ‘Code of Conduct’. In the case of solicitors, this is the Solicitors Regulation Authority and for barristers it is the Bar Standards Board. These are separate entities from the professional representative bodies, which are: the Law Society (solicitors) and the Bar Council (barristers).

However, if you have a complaint about a solicitor the first point of contact is generally with the Legal Complaints Service.

Both barristers and solicitors have positions of authority and must maintain their integrity at all times. Solicitors must not behave in a way that would diminish the trust the public has in the profession, and barristers must not do anything that is likely to bring the Bar (the collective term for barristers) into disrepute.


One of the fundamental differences between barristers and solicitors is the difference in the duties they owe to their clients. A solicitor’s duty is to his or her client, and they must act in the client’s best interests at all times. This duty is not all-encompassing however and there are certain situations in which a solicitor cannot continue to represent someone, for example if continuing to represent the client would mean breaking the law.

However, a barrister has a duty not only to his or her client but an equal duty to the court. For example a barrister cannot knowingly tell the court something that he knows to be wrong or untrue. If there is a conflict between the client’s instructions, and the barrister’s duty to the court, the barrister must in most circumstances withdraw from the case on the grounds that he is ‘professionally embarrassed’. There are only limited circumstances in which he is allowed to continue to act.

Confidentiality & Legal Professional Privilege

One of the most important aspects of the lawyer-client relationship is confidentiality. If a client did not think that he could speak freely and therefore withheld information about their case, a lawyer may not be able to provide accurate or appropriate advice.

The concept of confidentiality is the basis on which a lawyer is able to cite legal professional privilege for not disclosing information or the nature of communications to any other party. This applies, even during court proceedings, unless:

  • the privileged status has been waived by the parties
  • the information constitutes a criminal act or acts
  • the information breaches professional rules.


Barristers and solicitors cannot discriminate against anyone, and must observe anti-discrimination legislation at all times. This includes directly or indirectly discriminating against someone on the grounds of colour, sex, race, age, religion or nationality. The barristers’ ‘cab rank rule’ reflects this. This rule requires them to accept cases regardless of the identity or nature of the case against their client.

Client Money

Unlike barristers, solicitors are able to hold clients’ money. However, there are rules that must be observed in relation to this. A solicitor must have a separate client account and not use clients’ funds for any other purpose. To do otherwise would be a serious breach of the solicitors’ code of conduct.

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In May this year a solictor who in May 2014 hit my car twice was found guilty of Failing to stop contrary to section170(4) of the road traffic act, and failure to report. The magistrates awarded me compensation of £476.34 which has not been paid by the solicitor - defendant.During proceedings he actually, when asked by the magistrates why he had failed to report, was this a financial issue, boasted that "£500 is nothing to me".Surely this is dishonourable conduct by a solicitor to not pay the compensation owed and furthermore does this not bring the profession into disrepute?
Nikki16 - 23-Jul-15 @ 9:47 AM
i have just finished a long 5 year civil case for personal injury against land rover for a faulty new car that caused me to end up in a wheelchair in court the defendants solicitor and barrister both lied in a big way i never had good representation in court the lies that the defendants barrister and his answers to the judge where not questioned by my barrister even after i told him what had happened with the second car it was on that that i lost my case inturn lost money i should have been awarded
big t - 27-Mar-15 @ 8:54 AM
In this article on the duties of barristers and solicitors this is said "However, a barrister has a duty not only to his or her client but an equal duty to the court", giving the impression that solicitors do not owe a similar duty to the court.In fact solicitors conducting litigation and/or advocacy have the same duty to the court that barristers have.
Pryder747 - 28-Sep-14 @ 5:30 PM
WHAT CAN A HARD PRESSED AND UNWELL Party Litigant do when his oppossing Advocate / QC and Instructing solicitors mislead the court, submit erroneous material and 'utter false documents' to the court. Where are the champions of injustices during these occasions. I have never been disrespectable in Court and have always treated the various Outer and Inner House Judges with respect but sadly my pleadinsg fall on deaf ears. In short how can a PL get listtened to. I am an Exploisves Engineer with almost 40 years experience and have no problem speaking to and lecturing large groups of people - far in excess of the ammount one has to address in court. I do not tell lies, indeed my profession is not a liers profession. I write out alll my pleadings, submit them to the Bench beforehand and then speak to the same when making my pleadings. I have even been complimented by some judges and on 2 occasioin actually guided by the bench but sadly lmbasted by others. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I am 65 and to unwell to consider trying for a law degree John Parkes Explosives Engineer and Inventor.
WADI jOHN - 2-Nov-12 @ 2:12 AM
does the information in this apply to scots law iv been trying 7 year for a divorce it needed paperwork sorted by solicitors back in 04 then it was sorted ex`s solicitor refused the legal amount and seemed he has been defrauding legal aid its been in the papers so i complained as it says i have a year from the time i was aware of fraud this was march 2011,the complaints have told me his solicitor stopped dealing with him in 08 so im to late to complain,it was the first i heard of it,i received a letter telling me last week from complaints dept im still not divorced its been 10 years seperated,now ex is in a home im so fed up im forced to pay him £6,500 more than he was due thanks to his lawyer my lawyer is paying the divorce im wondering why shes not been perfect but had a hard time with ex`s lawyer and said my only way out was court which i cant afford he was banned for domestic abuse
su51 - 13-Jun-11 @ 7:29 PM
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