We are confident that the vast majority of lawyers put in place and maintain clear professional boundaries with their clients and other parties. However, we agree with the recommendation by the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants (RCMPI) that specific guidance for the profession on maintaining appropriate professional boundaries is useful.
The RCMPI’s final report recommended the development of specific guidance for lawyers on maintaining appropriate professional boundaries, to:
- encourage ethical behaviour
- better protect the public, and
- promote community confidence in the legal profession.
Therefore, we have produced the following information about:
- why professional boundaries matter
- the link between professional boundaries and the professional conduct rules
- how to avoid boundary-compromising situations (and examples of high-risk scenarios)
- how to know if your professional boundaries have been compromised
- where to go for further information and support
This guidance explains what professional boundaries are and why maintaining them is important. It explains the relevant professional conduct rules, and the potential professional consequences when boundaries are breached. It also identifies situations that may increase the risk that professional boundaries are compromised, sets out some key questions to consider if you are concerned that you may breach professional boundaries, and provides information about where you can obtain further information and advice.
This guidance and accompanying resource materials have been developed to provide practical support to lawyers on the importance of maintaining professional boundaries with your clients, and in relation to your relationships with other lawyers and police officers involved in a case in which you are involved.
References to professional conduct rules in this guidance are references to professional conduct rules for solicitors. The Victorian Bar has developed specific content on professional boundaries for its members.