Australian Solicitors' Conduct Rules

Australian Solicitors' Conduct Rules (PDF)

The Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules were adopted by the Council of the Law Society of South Australia on 25 July 2011 and were the culmination of work undertaken over a period of two years by the Law Council of Australia and its constituent bodies to develop a single, uniform set of Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules. See below for a detailed chronology of the development and implementation process.

Nationally uniform professional conduct rules are an important step towards creating a national legal profession in Australia. Their adoption will ensure that all Australian solicitors are bound by a common set of professional obligations and ethical principles when dealing with their clients, the courts, their fellow legal practitioners and other persons.

It is important to understand the function and purpose of the Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules. Firstly, they are not a complete and comprehensive statement of all of the ethical obligations that must be observed by legal practitioners. There are many common law and statutory ethical duties and obligations that legal practitioners must comply with that are not covered by the Rules.

Secondly, the Rules are not laws. That is, a breach of the Rules alone does not result in any penalty or disciplinary action. It is only when a breach of the Rules forms the basis for a finding by the relevant body that the practitioner concerned has committed an act of unsatisfactory or unprofessional conduct that disciplinary action will result.

The Rules simply set a standard of behaviour or conduct that should be observed by practitioners in certain circumstances. They are an accepted measure for the use of practitioners so they can ensure that they act appropriately in the circumstances demonstrated in the Rules, and disciplinary bodies so they can have a baseline against which to compare conduct by a practitioner that fits within the circumstances provided for in the Rules.


The Australian Solicitors' Conduct Rules - a Chronology


February 1997 Model Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice promulgated by the Law Council of Australia (LCA)
March 2002 Revised version of the Model Rules adopted by the LCA.
2002/2003 Review and amendment of the Model Rules by the Council of the Law Society of South Australia in light of local requirements.
March 2003 Adoption in South Australia of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice (PCR) incorporating the majority of the Model Rules plus a number of local Rules on issues that, unlike other jurisdictions, were not covered by our Legal Practitioners Act (LPA).
March 2009 Formation by the LCA of a National Conduct Rules Reference Group (NCR Group) to develop uniform national conduct rules. 
The NCR Group considered submissions and representations made by various key stake holders, as well as international sources such as the England and Wales Solicitors’ Code of Conduct and the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct.
June 2011 Approval of the Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules (Conduct Rules) by the LCA.
July 2011 Revocation of the PCR and adoption of the Conduct Rules by the Council of the Law Society of South Australia.
September 2011 Amendment of Conduct Rules by the Society's Council to insert PCR provisions on “Legal Assistance”, “Communicating with Clients on Costs” and “Contingency Fees” (previously rules 34, 41 and 42 of the PCR) as Rules 16A, 16B, and 16C. Unlike other jurisdictions, these matters were not covered by the South Australian LPA, and were therefore not included in the version of the Conduct Rules adopted by the LCA.
 July 2014 Upon the commencement of the Legal Practitioners (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2013, the Council revoked Local Rules 16B and 16C as their import was captured by the amendments to the LPA.