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Professional Practice Committee: supervision of non-solicitor employees
An issue arose last year out of a complaint of failure by a firm to follow the Society’s Practice Guideline on gazumping, in which it was said by the firm that because the sale was being handled by the firm’s estate agency branch where no solicitor was physically located, no solicitor’s conduct in the matter could be deemed unsatisfactory.
The Professional Practice Committee wish to reaffirm the duty of the partners in a firm to supervise the conduct of non-solicitor employees. Paragraph 2 of the schedule to the new Standards of Conduct Rules states that solicitors must always act in the best interests of their clients subject to complying with the law, professional practice rules and the principles of good professional conduct. This obligation extends to firms of solicitors as well as individual solicitors, and the committee wish to emphasise that the partners of a firm are responsible for matters done in the name of the firm, whoever actually carries them out.
In particular, the partner responsible for the specific department should ensure that all staff in that department have adequate training in any relevant professional practice rules and practice guidelines, and that there is adequate supervision of staff in carrying out work. If there is no partner directly responsible, the duty of supervision will rest with all the partners of the firm.
The committee decided against bringing in a specific practice rule on the matter, which it felt was unnecessary as the matter was already dealt with adequately in the Code of Conduct and now the Standards Rules.