‘Ethics and Advocacy in the 21st century’ Lord Neuberger lecture

Lord Neuberger delivered the SAHCA Lord Slynn Memorial Lecture to a packed Court 4 at the RCJ on 15 June 2016. His speech examined the sometimes conflicting duties owed by professional lawyers to their clients and those he referred to as 'ethical duties'.

'they (professional lawyers) have clients, to whom they have a duty, and for whom they often feel a strong sense of commitment, for understandable financial, emotional and moral reasons. But every lawyer has a duty to be honest, has a duty to comply with the rules of her profession, and has a duty to the court. These three overlapping set of duties (which I shall refer to as “ethical duties”), very importantly, override the lawyer’s duty to her client. Given these ethical duties, a lawyer’s duty and desire to do the best she can for her client will inevitably give rise to conflicts. And these conflicts will often be especially acute for an advocate, because she works under the pressure of the cut and thrust of litigation, with its tense adversarial atmosphere and its frequent requirement for almost split-second decision-making, and also because the duty to the court is particularly important in the context in which they work.'

He placed the fundamental importance of ethics at the highest level commenting that 'If lawyers and judges are not competent and honest, who are not independent and ethical, the rule of law is severely undermined; indeed, it is scarcely maintainable.'

Read the whole speech here: SAHCA Lord Slynn Memorial lecture Lord Neuberger speech 15 June 2016