On March 6th 2019, the General Council of the Spanish Bar approved the new Code of Ethics which came into force on May 9th 2019. This Code encompasses a set of principles of conduct that should govern the professional activities of lawyers and derogates the Code which was in force since 2002. These norms amend shortcomings that were detected since 2002 in order to make them applicable to every Autonomous region and in the areas of the Bar Associations. Moreover, these norms constitute the basis and their development and adaptation should be provided by the Autonomous Councils and the Bar Associations.
The new Code of Ethics considers essential values such as: independence, freedom, dignity, integrity, services, professional secrecy, transparency and collegiality.
The independence of a lawyer, with regard to any influence and against personal interests and external pressures, is an essential requirement of the system of the Rule of Law and of the effective defence of the citizens and is therefore established as a right and a duty.
The freedom of defence and to advise clients on freedom basis is protected and the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed without legitimizing insulting and discreditation.
Lawyers’ conduct should feature honesty, probity, rectitude, loyalty, diligence and veracity. This obliges the lawyer to waive any intervention that might result contrary to the mentioned principles or that might involve any conflict of interest with the clients of other lawyers of the firm.
The right and duty of the professional secrecy is established as a crucial rule and includes all secrets and proposals of the client, those of the opponent and colleagues, as well as all the facts and documents they may have knowledge about or may have received due to the professional intervention. The duties of professional secrecy will remain even after the provision of services has ceased.
The new Code of Ethics allows for publicity of the provided professional services as long as it is in accordance with the values that are essential for the profession.
The professional fees will be agreed on free basis between the client and the lawyer who shall inform the client on the approximate amount or on the bases used to determine it. The new Code of Ethics regulates the content of the order forms (“hoja de encargo”). The lawyer has the obligation to verify the identity of the person who is depositing the funds in order to prevent from money laundering. The lawyer will issue a receipt of the funds which shall be refunded and certified by the relevant accountability. Compensation and reverse charge mechanisms are expressly forbidden.
For the first time in the history, the use of information and communication technology is regulated in the new Code of Ethics and enforces to a responsible and diligent use in order to preserve confidence and professional secrecy.
In conclusion, the new Code of Ethics represents an effort to update and adapt the rules that should govern the professional activity of lawyers.