A reminder about professional responsibility

Written on October 10, 2013 – 6:00 am | by Jasmine Sweatman

On October 8, 2013 the Law Society hosted a panel entitled “Hot Topics in Ethics for Estates and Trusts Lawyers” which involved lively discussion of common ethical issues estates and trusts lawyers face on a daily basis.

Topics involved in the lively debate included some traditional repeats, including that a written retainer agreement is perhaps one of the most important documents for a lawyer when they are doing client intake and being retained on a file. However, the further point made was the suggestion of constant review and updating or limiting the retainer as the brief evolves. One of the pieces of best advice from the panel: to ensure you have a very detailed retainer letter laying out exactly what you are, and are not, retained to do for the client and to ensure a proper and thorough reporting letter is provided to the client at the end of the matter.

A joint retainer agreement is still overlooked and something that always needs to be top of the mind. According to an article in the Lawyer’s Weekly on November 30, 2012 over the past 5 years conflict of interest claims have been the fourth most common type of malpractice claim in wills and estates practice.

The panel also discussed some of the problems that can arise when spouses are not clear on the boundaries of the joint retainer and that there is no confidentiality as between the lawyer and the two clients and the types of conflicts that can arise later if a spouse returns to you alone to change their will on a new retainer. A reminder was made to return to the Rules of Professional Conduct and refresh oneself of their obligations.

Lesson Learned: Our professional responsibilities are a constant consideration in our daily practice and we all need a refresher from time to time.

Until next time

Jasmine Sweatman

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