All members of the Association have agreed to adhere to the following Code of Conduct.
MHLA CODE OF CONDUCT FOR REPRESENTATIVES
In representing hospital inpatients, particularly those detained by the state against their will, legal representatives carry out an important function for a civilised society. It is therefore important that the highest ethical and professional standards are adhered to.
Status of this Code
The committee of the Mental Health Lawyers Association have adopted this Code of Conduct. Annual renewal of membership, from January 2008, will require an undertaking that the Code will be followed.
This Code is in addition to the general Codes of Conduct made by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Institute of Legal Executives. The MHLA is a representative body rather than a regulatory body but, where appropriate, encourages complaints to be made to the SRA and/or ILEX.
Quality of service
1. Representatives should be members of the Law Society’s Mental Health Review Tribunal accreditation scheme, or actively seeking membership. The scheme is designed to demonstrate legal knowledge (through the accreditation process) and suitability (including a Criminal Records Bureau check). Unqualified representatives and/or those not on the panel must be closely supervised by a member of the scheme.
2. Representatives should always conduct themselves professionally and courteously, and strive to provide a high standard of work in both advice and representation.
3. Except in exceptional circumstances, representatives should contact ward staff to arrange prior appointments with clients and should arrive punctually. Ward staff should be asked to ensure that a private room will be booked.
Behaviour on the ward
4. The representative should report to ward staff on arrival, and then go straight to the appointment with his client.
5. Unplanned meetings with other existing clients should be arranged via the ward staff.
6. The representative should not loiter on the ward, hand out business cards except where requested, or otherwise approach patients who are not existing clients.
7. If approached by a patient who is not a client, the representative may give a business card for an appointment to be made, but should inform ward staff and, unless there is good reason to do so, should not accept instructions from a client who already has legal representation. The representative should consider contacting the existing solicitors to invite them to contact the patient again.
Disputes over representation
8. If there is a dispute over which firm should represent a patient, then this should be resolved via an independent third party rather than by revisiting the patient, as usually it is the more impressionable and vulnerable patients who find themselves in this situation.
9. No representative is to place posters in the hospital to advertise his firm; only standard hospital/Trust/national posters are allowed. Representatives should instead ensure that they are on the hospital’s list of firms and/or representatives.
10. No gifts of any description should be given to hospital staff, including MHA administrators and nurses, or to clients or other patients.
11. Representatives will comply with any lawful hospital procedures such as those relating to searches, identification, protected meal times, and access to medical records.
12. Appropriate attire and footwear should be worn by legal representatives and should be consistent with presenting a professional image. Those representing mental health clients should be sensitive to their client’s environment and bear in mind issues of risk at all times.
The word ‘representative’ in this Code includes solicitors, legal executives, and any solicitors’ staff who represent clients.
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Version 2, June 2013