The Law Society Council last week overwhelmingly passed new rules on conflicts and confidentiality.
Under a refined definition of what constitutes a conflict of interest, solicitors and firms will be prevented from acting where duties to the best interests of clients conflict, or where “there is a significant risk that those duties may conflict”.
The new rules state a clear definition of duties of confidentiality and disclosure, preventing solicitors from acting where confidential information gained from one client could be material for another client with adverse interests.
The vote also approves rules governing exceptions to the duty not to act, which include gaining consent from the clients concerned. In a vote at the council meeting on 15 July, 62 of the 70 members present voted in favour of the rules – a majority of 88.5 per cent. Just two council members voted against the proposals, while six abstained.
The vote is the culmination of work that began in 2000 that has included two consultation papers, both with a response rate of less than 1 per cent.
Following the consultations, the Law Society’s standards board and a working group developed the rules approved last week. However, their passage to the council was stalled in May when several City firms raised issues with the rule on duty of disclosure. The rules were returned for amendment.
Chris Perrin, executive partner at Clifford Chance, a member of the working party, said: “All firms will have to look at it closely.”