Historically, legal assistance in Poland is provided by two groups of lawyers: attorneys and legal advisors or attorneys-at-law. Because they are in contact with important principles for social life, each of these professional groups has its own code of ethics. Such a set of rules is very necessary, because lawyers and attorneys guard the justice and advise in the sensitive spheres of life and business activity of Clients.
The attorney at law is a profession of public trust in Poland. In accordance with the code of ethics, the task of the advisors is to serve the judiciary, keeping in mind the ideals and ethos of work. They are also responsible for protecting the rights and freedoms entrusted to them. While the values are permanent, their application must be adjusted in order to keep up with the rapidly changing reality, therefore the code is subject to revisions. The 40th anniversary of the attorneys at law self-government was celebrated in 2022. There have been implemented some crucial amendments.
First, the content of the Code should be briefly described. It covers the basic principles of practicing the profession based on which an attorney at law may face disciplinary consequences.
Principles include loyalty and taking care of the Clients’ welfare through cooperation. An important right and obligation are to maintain professional secrecy, which is
to guarantee the safety of the Client. Attorney at law should also be fair and compete in
a friendly manner with other counsellors. Legal attorneys also have their own self-government and train new law adepts – trainees.
The normative basis for practicing the profession is also the Act of 6 July 1982
on Attorneys at Law. It regulates the rules of practicing the profession and acquiring qualifications to become an attorney and it raises the issue of self-government and disciplinary liability.
Recently, many issues have emerged that required a fresh look. These include cases related to innovative technologies, advertising, consumers, as well as companies providing distinct types of services related to law, such as compensation law offices. Upholding the dignity of the legal attorney profession has also become an important issue.
The Code of Ethics of Attorneys at Law will be given a new preamble. The role of a legal advisor / attorney as an assistant in maintaining the rule of law and the high standard of legal services will be emphasized. The obligation of professional self-improvement was also kept in force.
In addition, there are changes regarding conflicts of interest. It was also indicated that in relation to the trainee attorney at law, one should act in accordance with good manners, principles of social coexistence, and honestly.
Some provisions concerned local government. Active participation in elections is no longer a right and an obligation, but only a right.
Implemented changes affect advertising for attorneys at law. In the amendments to the Code, the definition of informing about the performance of a profession appeared. It is supposed to be communication aimed at direct or indirect promotion of a given attorney or office. However, information should not be intrusive. Certainly, the Internet provides new opportunities for promoting legal services, however, this should be done with sensitivity. If the Client agrees, the attorney will be able to refer to the positive review of this person, but not in the field of family and guardianship, criminal, penal and fiscal matters or petty offences. The new rules offer more opportunities for promotion of attorneys at law. They are also adapted to the law of the European Union.
The obligation of professional secrecy was emphasized in the amended Code of ethics for attorneys at law, also in relation to negotiations aimed at amicable settlement of a given case. A legal advisor / attorney should strive to maintain professional secrecy and take steps to keep it.
Currently, it is not possible to conclude contracts for which a remuneration would be granted only if the case was successfully handled (pure no win no fee contracts are not allowed). However, it is possible and allowed in addition to the base payment, to arrange a success fee.
Due to the dynamic changes on the legal services market in Poland, many entities have appeared that provide their services, but are not fully entitled to do so (the representatives of legal market who do not have the full right of audience). The new provisions are designed to protect the consumer. An example may be the so-called compensation offices. They recover claims from insurance companies. However, they do not always use ethical practices, insistently trying to reach their customers. They often reach the clients right after the accident.
On the one hand, they provide fast legal services, and on the other hand, they can influence the clients’ decision. Attorneys at law cannot exert such pressure or act in a manner that
is sometimes not transparent, and therefore the provisions regulating this area are included in the amended Code of ethics for attorneys at law.
The introduced adjustments are aimed at professionalizing the market of attorneys at law, maintaining a high ethical standard and the seriousness of the legal counsel profession, as well as meeting the challenges of today’s legal transactions. Legal advisor / attorney as a profession of public trust plays an important role in society, therefore the code of ethics is important not only for attorneys, but also for their clients.