SRA Principle 4 requires solicitors to act in the best interests of each client.  But taking a myopic view of that obligation, and failing to balance it against other professional obligations, may lead lawyers into trouble.  The American Bar Association’s formulation of the duty is more nuanced.

In Bernard Sports Surfaces Ltd v Astrosoccer4u Ltd [2017] EWHC 2425 (TCC) the judge was highly critical of the Defendant’s solicitors, who he said made a threat to their opponent which was on its face unlawful, and exhibited breath-taking rudeness.  The firm self-reported to the SRA, who ultimately took no action.  The threats in Ferster v Ferster I[2016] EWCA Civ 717 led to a finding of ‘unambiguous impropriety’ and allegations (not taken up by the Court) of potential blackmail.

In R (ex p Gopinath Sathivel) v Secretary of State for the Home Dept and other cases [2018] EWHC 913, the High Court gave guidance on situations where solicitors are alleged to have gone too far in trying to help their clients avoid removal from the UK.  And in Vai Sui Ip v. SRA [2018] EWHC 957, the Court upheld the striking off of a solicitor for exploiting a ‘weak spot’ in the Immigration Rules by making last minute applications which were spurious or hopeless, again to avoid removal of clients from the UK.

Solicitors need to ensure that a client’s desperation or aggression does not lead them to cross the line into professional misconduct.  We provide advice on where the line should be drawn, what should and should not be reported to the SRA, and how it should be presented, as well as representation in the event of an investigation.

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