Law Society Risk and Compliance Conference 2023: Ethics in the news
- Jessica Clay, Partner at Kingsley Napley
- Corinne Staves, Partner at CM Murray LLP
- Sally Al-Saleem, Regulatory Policy Manager at the Legal Services Board
- Vivienne Inmonger, Head of Legal, Risk and Compliance at McGee
Stephen Denyer, Director of Strategic Relationships at The Law Society, served as the chair for the event.
Regulatory perspective: Upholding high ethical standards
Sally Al-Saleem, the Regulatory Policy Manager at the Legal Services Board, shared her insights on the regulatory perspective for maintaining high ethical standards in the legal industry. The key takeaway was that the regulator is eager to partner with lawyers to guarantee that all aspects of professional conduct align with high ethical standards.
She highlighted a specific instance where the legal profession received public backlash for its unethical behaviour: the alleged misuse of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) by some practitioners. Al-Saleem emphasised the importance of maintaining the public’s trust in the legal industry and working together to uphold ethical standards.
Shift from client onboarding to client selection
Corinne Staves, a partner at CMS Murray LLP, focused on the shift from client onboarding to client selection. Staves posed the question of whether working with a client on a particular matter had moved from ‘can we’ as a regulatory question, to ‘should we’ as an ethical question.
Staves noted that the war in Ukraine had brought this issue to the forefront.
But what really stood out was the fact that clients, lawyers, applicants, and the wider public, had been calling for firms to take environmental, social, governance (ESG), and wider ethical considerations into account for several years.
Meaning law firms are facing pressure from all sides to think about who their stakeholders are, including their people, the regulator, the press, Parliament, and their clients.
When it comes to taking on clients, the type of work they agree to do is an important factor to consider. For instance, if a lawyer is representing a corporate entity that intends to invest in a project that may cause environmental harm, it’s a completely different situation than representing the same corporate in a matter related to the development of conservation areas.
Finally, Staves highlighted that there was a luxury in the ability to make ethical decisions, and firms under pressure may not feel they have that luxury. Why? Because the resources needed to make those nuanced ethical decisions haven’t been available to most law firms.
The importance of robust systems and processes
Jessica Clay, a partner at Kingsley Napley, set out some practical ways for lawyers to make complex decisions about client acceptance. She emphasised the importance of…
- Robust systems and processes
- Centralised onboarding system across partnerships
- Ethical framework for decision making
- Supervisory arrangement to hold people accountable and ensure practice-wide applications
- Supporting junior members to speak up
- Effective training, including the provision of case studies
- Ongoing monitoring (to continually know and monitor your client)
Bottom line: good culture leads to good business.
Xapien: Automating background research reports
Staves highlighted the lack of resources available to most law firms for making ethical decisions, and that’s where Xapien comes in.
We’ve developed a cloud-delivered platform that automates the highly complex process of human research. Our background research reports enable anyone to know who they are in business with, regardless of their resources.
Our platform has been successfully used by clients such as the University of Cambridge’s Donor Due Diligence team, which reduced their researchers’ workload from two days per donor to just 30 minutes by creating Xapien reports.
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