Conflicts and the Courts

Commentary to Rule 3.4-1 in the  Code of Conduct clarifies the role of courts and law societies in determining whether conflicts of interest exist and in determining the consequences for breaching conflict of interest rules:

[6] These rules set out ethical standards to which all members of the profession must adhere. The courts have a separate supervisory role over court proceedings. In that role, the courts apply fiduciary principles developed by the courts to govern lawyers' relationships with their clients, to ensure the proper administration of justice. A breach of the rules on conflicts of interest may lead to sanction by a law society even where a court may decline to order disqualification as a remedy.

Codes of conduct are not binding on courts, though will inform the courts in considering matters involving conflicts of interest.  In general, codes of conduct developed by law societies will evolve to reflect current case law.  Courts also have power to disqualify lawyers and to prevent them from acting in certain matters when they have a conflict of interest, and to award damages to clients who may have suffered financial losses as a result. Law societies only have the ability to discipline lawyers who have breached their ethical obligations by acting in a conflict of interest.

Last modified: Monday, 21 August 2023, 9:17 AM