Last week the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) announced that amendments had been made to rule 4 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007 and that the accompanying guidance had now been approved by the Legal Services Board and were now in force. As these rule changes had been expected in three months' time in October, Alison Thorpe, the EMEA sales director for ethical barrier software specialists The Frayman Group (contact athorpe@fraymangroup.com ) thought there might make interesting reading…

The amendment extends the circumstances in which firms can act with the use of an information barrier where the confidential information of one client might otherwise be at risk because of instructions from a new client which  has an interest adverse to the other client. The rule formerly only allowed a firm to complete work already started for a client using an information barrier; the amendment allows firms to accept new instructions where it is apparent at the outset that there is adversity between the clients, and confidentiality could be at risk.

Acting with the use of an information barrier to protect confidential information remains subject to stringent conditions in the rule including the requirement that the safeguards used in setting up and operating the information barrier must comply with the law. Most firms will not have the infrastructure to set up legally compliant information barriers and they should, therefore, continue to be used with extreme caution.

View rule 4.05 with 13 July 2010 changes highlighted
http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/change-tracker/code-of-conduct/rule4.page

View guidance to rule 4 with 13 July 2010 changes highlighted
http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/change-tracker/code-of-conduct/rule4.page#TOA-Guidance-paragraph-32