Please provide us with an overview of integrity issues related to lawyers and law firms.
1. The role of lawyers 2. Factors that create integrity risks 3. Ethics and integrity safeguards 4. References
There are four core principles regarding integrity that guide legal practice: independence, confidentiality, avoiding conflicts of interest and maintaining professional integrity. A variety of issues have emerged that risk undermining the integrity of the legal profession. These ethical challenges relate to characteristics that are particular to the legal practice, such as: attorney-client privilege, the role of lawyers as intermediaries, outsourcing legal counsel and the globalised nature of contemporary law firms.
The factors that create integrity risks relate to the pressure and incentive some lawyers and law firms have in turning a profit for their clients; the undermining of their independence; the potential for abuse of the attorney-client privilege; weak industry-wide anti-corruption standards; and weak internal policies and controls within law firms. Some lawyers also lack awareness and knowledge of anti-corruption provisions.
There are a variety of ethical and integrity safeguards – both voluntary and compulsory – that can guide the legal profession through these risks. While there are different regulatory approaches, most jurisdictions will apply a combination of government and industry regulation that sets integrity safeguards. These include disclosure requirements, codes of conduct, due diligence procedures, conflict of interest provisions and anti-corruption training. Assessing the existence and extent of these measures will also enable practitioners to ascertain whether a law firm is sufficiently protected against corruption.