Karl Deakin, a trainee at Veale Wasbrough, asked more than 250 trainees and newly qualified solicitors what they thought of ethical standards in the profession.
According to Deakin, “only a handful” of trainees felt their superiors had higher professional standards than they did, with just under half agreeing that trainees paid closer heed to ethical matters.
Of the 52 respondents to The Trainee magazine survey, the vast majority believed that most lawyers “put fee-earning and maintaining a good relationship with clients above ethical considerations”. Only 4 per cent thought that lawyers ever put ethics first.
Around 8 per cent said they had been asked to carry out a task that was in breach of professional conduct rules.
“If shared anecdotes are to be believed, the percentage may well be much higher,” Deakin added. “I'm sure that all trainees have heard of this kind of thing happening.”
While one trainee had been asked to change the date on a document sent to the Land Registry so that it fell within the two-month deadline, other trainees were “left floundering” in situations when conflicts of interest arose. Many of the respondents said they had to remind supervisors to comply with the Solicitors' Costs Information and Client Care Code.
“Studying the Professional Skills Course does mean that trainees are alive to professional conduct issues,” said Deakin. “You'd expect all lawyers to be aware of the basic principles.”