DCA stalls over Law Soc conflict rules proposals

Logjams have bedevilled the Law Society proposals on conflict rules, with the Dep-artment for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) stalling on the consultation process following objections by the Legal Services Consultative Panel.

The panel published its response to the Law Society’s proposals several months ago. Despite this, the Law Society’s attempts to broker a discussion between its own conflicts working party and the DCA had been unsuccessful for several months.

Sources close to the process told The Lawyer that the Law Society considered an informal meeting with the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer to break the deadlock. Two representatives of the DCA finally met with a Law Society team on 14 December to thrash out the differences of approach to the conflict rules.

The concerns included the panel’s recommendation to broaden the terms of a definition of a conflict to include what a ‘fair-minded observer’ might deem a conflict. The second amendment proposed by the panel concerned the issue of information barriers and the duty of confidentiality in the wake of the Prince Jefri judgment.

In both cases, the Law Society was understood to consider the panel’s stance too wide to be workable.

Law Society head of policy and professional ethics Bronwen Still said: “We’re hoping we’ve now agreed a way forward that will allow the rules to proceed to the final stages.”

A DCA spokesperson said: “The Law Society highlighted a number of concerns regarding the advice given by the Legal Services Consultative Panel and wanted to get them resolved. The meeting on 14 December was looking to move things forward. It successfully considered each of the issues.”