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Professional Ethics and Character – Who a Lawyer is and How a lawyer behaves

Legal practice is about much more than knowing the law – it is also about acting to preserve the critical role of justice in our society. Earning the trust of your clients, colleagues and the public requires a life-long commitment to ethics, integrity, and fairness in all that you do.

CPLED’s Competency Framework prepares students by going beyond the ethical obligations outlined in the code of conduct to understanding the qualities and characteristics lawyers must embody to ensure that decision making is guided by ethics and integrity.


3.1 Code of conduct knowledge – Understand where and how the rules that govern lawyers work, and your ethical obligations and responsibilities.

  1. Demonstrates the ability to identify and can discuss the ethical obligations and responsibilities of a lawyer.
  2. Demonstrates the ability to identify and cites provisions of the Legal Profession Act and codes of the applicable law society (Rules and Code of Conduct (Alberta), Code of Professional Conduct (Saskatchewan), Code of Professional Conduct (Manitoba), Professional Code of Conduct (Nova Scotia)


3.2 Character and professional responsibilities – Act honestly, fairly and with integrity with your clients, colleagues, courts, tribunals and the public.

  1. Manages compliance, ethical and other issues to protect the Bar’s reputation and that of the legal profession.
  2. Acts ethically and professionally at all times in dealing with clients, colleagues, courts, tribunals and the public in order to effectively represent clients, maintain the standards of the profession and ensure public confidence in the legal system.

  1. Demonstrates professional courtesy, and dignity in all dealings with clients, colleagues and others.
  2. Consistently demonstrates civility in all communications.
  3. Uses language that is courteous and respectful.

  1. Acts in a non-discriminatory manner, treating all people with respect and courtesy, regardless of their background or circumstances.
  2. Recognizes potential for unconscious bias.
  3. Demonstrates the ability to identify and avoids personal bias.
  4. Actively observes and upholds the law on equality, diversity and discrimination.
  5. Recognizes and takes reasonable steps to meet the particular needs of clients including those who are disabled or vulnerable.
  6. Understands the law on equality and the need to value differences between members of society and applies that understanding in the workplace.
  7. Takes positive steps to confront and tackle discrimination, whether in themselves, in others or in the structures of the workplace.

  1. Demonstrates honesty about the limits of their knowledge, their experience, qualifications and professional status.
  2. Ensures that to the best of their knowledge and belief any information they give is accurate, true and not likely to mislead.

  1. Maintains independence from external pressures.
  2. Demonstrates the ability to identify and admit to errors of judgment, omissions and mistakes and takes appropriate action to address the implications.

  1. Maintains professional competency.
  2. Takes responsibility for planning and undertaking personal development and learning.


3.3 Professional ethics – Identify, analyse and make the right decision regarding ethical issues, complying with your fiduciary duties, avoiding conflicts and protecting confidence.

  1. Understands and complies with any fiduciary duty, according to law and good practice.

  1. Recognizes potential ethical situations and identify ethical issues.
  2. Recognizes that honesty and integrity are guiding principles to ethical decision making.
  3. Considers and addresses what impact, if any, the ethical situation may have on the client or others.
  4. Understands and applies ethical decision-making models and approaches to ethical issues, recommending a course of action consistent with ethical practices.
  5. Understands the appropriate steps to take when asked by a client to engage in an activity that would breach professional obligations.
  6. Demonstrates the ability to identify obligations and responsibilities to the client.
  7. Demonstrates the ability to identify obligations and responsibilities to the Law Society.
  8. Seeks appropriate assistance and/or educational resources when a matter is beyond current abilities and knowledge.
  9. Seeks appropriate assistance from senior counsel, specialists, mentors and support provided by the law societies.
  10. Declines to act on matters of which they are incapable of performing.
  11. Recognizes the circumstances where independent legal advice is required by law.
  12. Recognizes that withdrawal is appropriate and permitted in certain circumstances and not in others.
  13. Recognizes when an error or omission has occurred and determines appropriate steps to remediate.

  1. Demonstrates the ability to identify with whom ethical issues should be raised such as other lawyers, employers, professional associations, legal services boards, police, or other affected parties.

  1. Demonstrates ability to identify any duty, obligation or undertaking imposed on the lawyer by law or rules of professional conduct in a particular situation.
  2. Discharges the professional duty, obligation or undertaking according to law and good practice.

  1. Takes steps to avoid actual or perceived conflicts of interest where possible.
  2. Recognizes areas where conflict of interest could manifest, including but not limited to joint retainers, acting against a client, doing business with a client, borrowing from a client, acting for a client with whom the lawyer has a personal or sexual relationship.
  3. Uses client conflict management system allowing identification and tracking of potential conflicts of interest (legal, personal, and business conflicts).
  4. Demonstrates the ability to identify any potential or actual conflict of interest, as soon as is reasonable in the circumstances and to take steps to address such conflicts.
  5. Demonstrates knowledge of the Code of Conduct pertaining to conflicts of interest and identifies potential conflicts of interest before acquiring confidential information.
  6. Communicates any conflicts to the client or affected party.

  1. Understands and explains the duty of client confidentiality and loyalty and responsibilities flowing from them.
  2. Acts in accordance with the relevant ethics code and other rules and regulations applicable to maintaining the confidentiality and security of information relating to third parties including that of their current and former clients.
  3. Refrains from discussing client matters outside of the office.
  4. Complies with relevant data protection and financial information legal requirements.
  5. Demonstrates the ability to identify  restricted situations where disclosure of confidential client information is permitted and/or required by the pertinent code of ethics.
  6. Understands how to implement appropriate actions and processes to ensure confidences are protected. Public access for self-represented persons

  1. Acts in accordance with the applicable code of conduct and other rules and regulations applicable to self-represented persons.
  2. Demonstrates the ability to identify various community resources available to self-represented persons with insufficient resources in order that they be well served by the legal system.
  3. Demonstrates the ability to identify when a client with insufficient resources may be entitled to legal aid, or assistance from professional or community organizations and refers people to these services. Self-represented litigants

  1. Act in accordance with the applicable code of conduct and other rules and regulations applicable to self-represented persons.
  2. Acts respectfully towards self-represented litigants, and deals with them to the same standard as a represented party.
  3. Recognizes and appreciates the position of opponents not represented by qualified legal advisors (self-represented litigants).
  4. Understands the professional duties to the self-represented litigant, the court and their own client.
  5. Avoids taking advantage of self-represented litigants.
  6. Demonstrates flexibility to reasonable requests concerning trial dates, adjournments, waiver of procedural formalities and similar matters that do not prejudice their own clients’ rights.
  7. Confirms before any settlement that the self-represented party understands the terms of settlement and their effect, and have this noted on the record of transcript, orders or other document containing the terms of settlement.
  8. Confirms communications in writing, using plain language

  1. Charges fair and reasonable fees and disbursements which are disclosed in a timely manner.
  2. Demonstrates understanding of circumstances where fees are mandated (e.g., real estate, administration of estates)
  3. Demonstrates the ability to identify and executes a lawyer’s duties pertaining to the supervision and reporting of trust monies.
  4. Understands the nature of inappropriate trust conditions and refrains from accepting or imposing such undertakings or conditions.

  1. Performs voluntary contributions to the legal profession and the community where appropriate.
  2. Recognizes the importance of pro bono contributions to legal practice.
  3. Demonstrates ability to identify various means whereby lawyers may provide pro bono contributions.