The Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules (ASCR) have been developed jointly by all state and territory bar associations and other constituent professional bodies of the Law Council, as agreed professional rules for all lawyers in Australia. The ASCR is a statement of lawyers` professional and ethical obligations under legislation, common law and equity. However, they also express the profession`s collective vision of the standards of behaviour expected of professionals. ASCRs were approved by the Directors of the Law Council in June 2011 and adopted as professional rules for lawyers in South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria (and soon Western Australia), Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. ASCRs have been adopted in accordance with the procedures of each jurisdiction, which vary considerably. The Northern Territory currently has its own Code of Conduct. The Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules 2011 were updated in March and April 2015. With the exception of the deletion of former rule 29.12.5, the minor amendments did not change the content of the Rules of Procedure. The ASCR was established as the Legal Profession Uniform Law Australian Solicitors` Conduct Rules 2015 under the Legal Profession Uniform Law (Uniform Law), which came into force in Victoria and New South Wales on 1 July 2015. Following the ASCR review, further amendments to Rule 42 (Anti-discrimination and harassment) were proposed. This new revision of Rule 42 is the result of the Law Council`s National Anti-Sexual Harassment Roundtable in July 2020 and subsequent consultations that fed into the Law Council`s National Action Plan to Reduce Sexual Harassment in the Australian Bar Association (NAP). For the convenience of practitioners, a version of the ASCR has been created with an accompanying commentary.
The commentary is intended to provide additional information and guidance to understand how certain rules may apply in certain situations. More detailed advice and support for practitioners should always be sought from their respective state and territory bar associations. In the legal systems of the Uniform Law, Article 427, paragraph 2, of the Uniform Law empowers the Legal Council to draw up proposals for uniform rules on the exercise of rights, continuing professional development and the conduct of the legal professions, insofar as they apply to or concern lawyers. The current commentary responds to the ASCR, which is currently in effect. The Directors of the Legal Board decided that, following the implementation of the above-mentioned reviews, an expanded commentary would be developed for the revised ASCR. A copy of the ASCR as currently in effect is available here. A copy of the consultation working document on the Legal Board review of 1 February 2018 is available here. One of the issues that emerged from the 2018-2020 comprehensive review of the ASCR was the need to clarify how to apply existing ethical principles to avoid conflicts of interest between current or current and former clients of a lawyer or law firm when providing short-term legal advisory services. For more information, please refer to Legal Council`s public consultation paper entitled Public Consultation Paper on Short-Term Assistance Services. The commentary is not intended to be the only source of information on the rules – detailed information is available from the constituent bodies of the Legal Council to understand the application of the ASCR to the variety of situations arising in legal practice. In March 2020, the Directors of the Legal Board approved the recommendations of the Professional Ethics Committee regarding the examination. The Legal Board is currently working with Uniform Law and other state and territorial jurisdictions to implement the revised ASCR in accordance with the processes of those jurisdictions.
For more information on how the legal profession is regulated in Australia, click here. In 2018, the Legal Board began the first comprehensive review of the ASCR since its first promulgation in June 2011. As a result of the above-mentioned reviews, the Legal Board is currently working with the jurisdictions of the States and Territories in the application of the Uniform Laws in order to apply the revised rules in accordance with the procedures of those jurisdictions. The Legal Board regularly reviews the ASCR in consultation with its constituent bodies, regulators and other relevant stakeholders. The Professional Ethics Committee of the Legal Council supervises these examinations with the assistance of the Secretariat of the Legal Council.