Conflicts rules under fire by City Law Society

A wholesale shake-up of the rules governing conflicts of interest is about to take place, The Lawyer can reveal.

The City of London Law Society working party will today publish a paper which calls for the conflicts rules in England and Wales to be brought in line with the more liberal rules on the Continent.

The paper argues that the more restrictive rules in England and Wales leave solicitors at a disadvantage in comparison with the rest of Europe. Although Continental lawyers can act against a current client on matters unrelated to advice given to that client, current Law Society rules do not allow this. There is also no provision for clients to agree to this.

“There’s incredible confusion as to what the current rules mean,” says a source close to the discussions.

The working party will recommend that the Law Society adopts the CCBE Code – the code of conduct issued by the pan-European council of law societies. This code commits all national law societies in Europe, if they amend their codes, to make them harmonious with the rest of Europe.

The paper also recommends that the Law Society renegotiates the terms of the code to clarify certain aspects of the rules.

The working party – which comprises partners from Allen & Overy, Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Eversheds, Fox Williams, Lovells and Kingsley Napley – began discussing the issue in February.