The Solicitors Regulatory Authority has issued guidance on what amounts to “Offensive communications” from a firm of solicitors to the other side, particularly to a litigant in person.
The SRA sets out that a solicitors role is to act in the client’s best interest. Antagonising the other side is unlikely to achieve this.
THE SRA GUIDANCE
The Guidance covers several issues (including behaviour on social media) in relation to communications with other firms and litigants in person.
“Communications with other law firms and litigants in person
It is not uncommon for emails between law firms in relation to a client’s matter to be robust, particularly in litigation.
However, solicitors should ensure such communications do not cross the line by using inflammatory language or being gratuitously offensive, either to the other side or about their client.
The SRA states that solicitors should remain objective and not allow the matter to become personal, regardless of any provocation, or their client’s instructions.
The SRA states that solicitors are not their client’s ‘hired gun’ and they may be at risk under Principle 3 if they allow independence to be compromised by being drawn into using offensive language, or making offensive comments in order to meet their client’s expectations.
The SRA states that it is equally important to remain professional when dealing with an individual who is representing him or herself, or has appointed a McKenzie Friend.
In a recent decision, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal fined a solicitor for his heated and abusive exchange of emails with a litigant in person, calling this ‘completely unacceptable’.
The SDT said it was the solicitor’s responsibility to maintain professionalism regardless of what that person may have done.