QCs, Law Soc in face-off over solicitor code rights

Two leading silks have initiated proceedings against the Law Society for the right to include the new Solicitors’ Code of Conduct in a handbook they co-authored.



Two leading silks have initiated proceedings against the Law Society for the right to include the new Solicitors’ Code of Conduct in a handbook they co-authored.

Andrew Hopper QC of Cardiff solicitors Geoffrey Williams & Christopher Green and Gregory Treverton-Jones QC of 39 Essex Street spent three months working on a guide to the new code called The Solicitor’s Handbook.

The QCs, through their publisher Butterworths, sought permission from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to include the code as an appendix to the handbook.

The SRA wrote to Butterworths saying the letter should be taken as permission to include the code, which the silks took to mean they had a binding licence.

But when the Law Society, which encompasses the SRA, found out, it contacted Butterworths to withdraw consent.

Herbert Smith’s IP chief Nick Gardner, who is acting for the silks, said the society withdrew permission as it had written a handbook itself and did not want the competition.

“The Law Society is saying that there was no consideration so it could withdraw consent at any time, but my clients’ reliance on the permission is a simple case of estoppel,” said Gardner. “It means the Law Society can’t revoke permission.”

Gardner, who branded the society’s actions “appalling”, said if the body does not back down then his clients will take the matter all the way to court.

Law Society chief executive Des Hudson said he hopes the dispute may be settled amicably, but does not accept that the silks had a valid licence to reproduce the code, which is available as a pdf on the society’s website.

He added: “The society does not accept that its unwillingness to grant such a licence in any way suppresses or prevents wide dissemination of, or access to, the code of conduct.”