Codex Ethicus (Lawyers’ Code of Conduct)
ICELANDIC BAR ASSOCIATION
General Principles of Good Legal Practice
A lawyer shall promote justice and prevent injustice.
He shall, in the matter of all Cases, act in accordance with true Laws and his conscience.
A lawyer shall, in his professional as well as other activities, protect the honor of the legal profession.
A lawyer shall perform his work independently and protect the autonomy of the legal profession.
A lawyer shall not permit extraneous interests, irrespective of whether these be his own or those of others, to influence his advice, the handling of a Case before an authority or a Court of Law or other factors which a lawyer serves for the benefit of his Client.
A lawyer shall himself decide whether he accepts an assignment unless the law provides otherwise.
A lawyer may not lend his name of professional services to persons who want to practice Law but lack the requisite legal qualifications.
A lawyer may not in any manner enable persons lacking the requisite qualifications for legal practice to perform tasks that under Law or custom shall be performed only by a lawyer.
In the course of a debate in the news media or other public forums concerning a Case that a lawyer is or has been handling, he shall respect his Client’s wishes to the effect that the matter be not discussed on his behalf.
A lawyer shall at all times advance protests and corrections in respect of incorrect and misleading news about Cases.
The information which a lawyer obtains professionally shall be kept away from unconcerned parties, although this is not forbidden by legally prescribed confidentiality. A lawyer shall emphasize this rule to his staff.
A lawyer may not make use of information received in confidence in the course of his professional activities for the benefit of an opposing party.
A lawyer may not, without the knowledge of those concerned, take down in shorthand, record on audio, video, or in another similar manner telephone conversations, interviews, meetings, or other discussions irrespective of whether or not the lawyer himself is a party thereto. He may not use such recordings as evidence in Cases before Court.
If the aforementioned recordings are copied the lawyer shall send a certified copy thereof to each party concerned.
Concerning Lawyers’ Duties vis-à-vis their Clients
A lawyer shall, in conformity with the principle of Art. 1, use his best efforts in the service of his Clients’ interests. This he shall do without regard for his own interests, personal opinions, politics, nationality, religion, race, sex, sexual inclination or other extraneous factors which do not have a direct bearing on the subject matter itself.
A lawyer shall avoid identifying himself with his Client and has the right not to be personally identified with the views and interests which he protects for his Client.
A lawyer shall not undertake a task that he knows or should know that he is unable to attend to with knowledge and professional skill unless the work is discharged in cooperation with a qualified lawyer in the field concerned.
A lawyer shall not undertake a task for a Client whose identity he does not know. In instances of doubt, a lawyer shall make normal arrangements to acquire knowledge about a Client and be authorized to arrange for the task. Yet it is always permissible to undertake tasks in accordance with a request from another lawyer or upon official appointment.
A lawyer has the duty of informing his Client of any matter which may make him dependent upon his Client’s adversary or make his attitude towards his Client’s adversary doubtful, such as kinship, cooperation, financial interests, or other such connections.
A lawyer shall always provide his Client with an impartial opinion of his affairs. A lawyer shall inform his Client of the estimated costs of his work and other costs of the Case as possible and notify him if costs may be expected to become high by comparison to the interests at stake. A lawyer shall give a Client an account of the basis on which his remuneration is computed.
A lawyer shall obtain his Client’s approval if his Case must be entrusted to another lawyer. The same applies generally if other expert assistance must be sought, such as the services of assessors or surveyors, if this involves significant costs.
A lawyer shall arouse a Client’s attention to the possibility of free legal aid or other official Court assistance where applicable.
A lawyer may not undertake the interests of two or more Clients in the same Case when their interests are opposed or there is considerable danger thereof. The provision does, however, not prevent a lawyer from seeking a settlement between parties in dispute with the approval of both parties.
A lawyer shall also avoid taking on a new Client if his interests and those of the lawyer’s existing Clients are incompatible or there may be a danger thereof. The same applies to lawyers cooperating in the operation of a lawyers’ office or operating a lawyers’ office as partners.
A lawyer undertaking a task shall proceed therewith at a suitable speed. He shall advise his Client if the task is delayed or if it may be expected to be delayed.
A lawyer is authorized at all stages to withdraw from a task. A lawyer may, however, never withdraw from a task without a Client being afforded an opportunity of preventing damage to his Case and engage another lawyer.
A lawyer shall keep funds owned by his Client separate from his personal funds in conformity with the rules relating to lawyers’ custodial accounts.
A lawyer shall remain capable at any time of refunding the funds safeguarded by him on behalf of his Client.
A lawyer shall, without undue delay, deliver to his Client collected funds and other valuables he has received on his Client’s behalf.
A lawyer may, however, always retain in his possession sufficient funds to secure the payment of fees for work already performed on account of matters handled by him for his Client at any particular time, provided his Client is given a sufficient explanation of the costs thus incurred.
A lawyer’s statement of account and settlement to a Client shall be clear.
A lawyer shall furnish a Client with a specified account of the costs of work on each Case. In case of remuneration is determined on the basis of hourly charge information shall be granted from hourly time record if it is sought.
A lawyer is entitled to retain in his custody documents and other data which he has received in connection with his Client’s Case until the Client has effected full settlement to the lawyer of outlays and fees attaching to the Case according to the invoice issued.
A lawyer’s retaining lien under paragraph 1 will not apply if the retention of data causes a Client damage that cannot else be avoided. The same applies if his commission is withdrawn due to just reason, such as on account of abnormal delay in the proceedings of a Case or for comparable reasons.
In cases of dispute as to the amount of payment quoted by a lawyer the Board of the Icelandic Bar Association may decide whether a part thereof shall be paid immediately and the remaining amount secured until the dispute has been finally resolved. A lawyer shall then deliver the data, provided the Client has accepted and fulfilled the conditions set by the Board of the Association.
A lawyer may never, unless decided by the final ruling of a Court directed at himself or expressly provided for by statute, provide unconcerned parties with data and information concerning a Client, or a former Client, which the lawyer has received in the course of his work.
The same applies to a lawyer’s associates and other staff, as well as to a lawyer’s partner in a lawyer’s office and his staff.
Upon request by a Client a lawyer may deliver the data or information referred to in paragraph 1, provided this be required by the obvious interests of a Client.
The duty of confidentiality will remain although a task is completed.
A lawyer may not guarantee the liability of a Client’s obligation.
Concerning Lawyer’s Dealings with the Courts
A lawyer shall show the Law Courts due courtesy and respect in speech, writing, and conduct.
A lawyer shall continue to safeguard his Client’s interests before Court with full frankness and honesty and without having regard for his own interests or those of others.
A lawyer may never wilfully provide the Courts with incorrect or misleading information as to the facts or items of Laws.
A lawyer may not contribute to the destruction or secretion of evidence, he is neither required nor allowed, without his Client’s approval, to provide the Courts with data or information incriminating a Client.
A lawyer may not submit in Court an opposing party´s proposals for settlement filed out of Court unless approved by him.
A lawyer shall endeavor to prepare carefully his presentation of Cases before Courts of Law and promote otherwise expedition and good handling of Cases on his part.
A lawyer handling a Case before Courts of Law shall notify the Court concerned about his foreseeable inability to attend and absence from pleadings.
In case a lawyer ceases working on an individual Case before the Court or ceases entirely serving in pleadings he shall advise the Courts of Law concerned thereof.
The provisions of the present Section also extend, as applicable, to lawyers’ conduct and pleadings before Disciplinary Committees.
Concerning Lawyers’ Inter-relations
Lawyers shall have good mutual cooperation and show each other complete respect in speech, writing, and conduct.
They shall show each other the sensitivity which is reconcilable to a Client’s interest.
A lawyer may not, unless urgently necessary, contact a party directly with respect to a matter in the care of another lawyer, without the latter’s consent. The lawyer concerned shall always be notified immediately.
In case a party who has entrusted a lawyer with his Case contacts the lawyer of his adversary directly with respect to the Case in question the latter shall, in the absence of urgent reasons to the contrary, refuse to handle the matter. The lawyer concerned shall, however, always be notified accordingly.
A lawyer may only criticize the actions of another lawyer on the basis of pertinent considerations and shall avoid causing more damage to his fellow lawyers’ reputation than inevitable by reason of the matter in question.
If a lawyer is charged with a task that another lawyer has previously attended to he shall not commence work thereon until he has ascertained that the former lawyer’s safeguarding of rights has been completed or will be finished without delay.
The aforementioned provision notwithstanding a lawyer is, however, authorized to make requisite arrangements to protect a party against damage to the Case.
A lawyer who seeks the assistance or opinion of another lawyer in specific sectors of a task on which he works is personally liable for the payment of outlays and fees of that lawyer unless an alternative arrangement is specifically negotiated.
A lawyer may not threaten the lawyer of an adversary party with a complaint to the authorities or with legal prosecution in order to induce him to take measures or to refrain from taking measures relating to that party’s Case.
In internal disputes, a lawyer who contemplates complaining about another lawyer before the authorities or Courts of Law shall warn him and the Board of the Icelandic Bar Association in advance and afford them an opportunity of expressing themselves about the matter.
It is, however, permissible to deviate from this rule in case of dire need on account of the nature of the matter.
A lawyer is not permitted to deliver a test Case for the Supreme Court of Iceland to others than active District Court Attorneys.
A lawyer is not permitted to require another lawyer or another party special remuneration for referring a Client to the lawyer.
A lawyer is not permitted to pay another party special remuneration for having that party refer Clients to himself.
Concerning a Lawyer’s Duties vis-à-vis Opposing Parties
A lawyer shall show his Client’s Opposing Parties complete respect in speech, writing, and conduct and consideration reconcilable to the Client’s interests.
A lawyer may not, for the benefit of his Client’s Case, resort to inappropriate coercion which is i.a. considered to include the:-
- reporting to the authorities or threatening to report to the authorities on account of conduct unrelated to a Client’s interests,
- to disclose or threaten disclosure of conduct evinced by an opposite party which is suited to damage his reputation,
- to refer or threaten to refer the matters of a Client to unauthorized relatives of an opposite party without special reason.
A lawyer shall at all times prior to commencing legal action notify the opposite party of his Client’s claims and afford an opportunity for settlement.
This does not apply, however, if legal action, by reason of imminent damage to a Client’s Case or other prejudice to his interests, must not be delayed, or if the situation in other respects is such that immediate Court action is appropriate and necessary.
A lawyer representing his Client in litigation against an opposite party who takes care of his interests on his own may, as appropriate, recommend to the opposite party that he seeks the assistance of a lawyer if such assistance is obviously needed.
Concerning Law Offices, Advertisements et al.
A lawyer is personally responsible for his and his associates’ professional services.
The full name and professional title of the lawyer or lawyers responsible for the professional services of a Law office shall always be stated in the firm’s name of the office.
The firm’s name a Law office may not indicate that it renders any other service than that of a lawyer and real estate office.
A lawyer shall take special care that it is not permissible to engage in lawyers’ duties except at an office operated by a lawyer, cf. Art. 19 of the Act respecting Lawyers No. 77/1998, unless an exemption has been granted in accordance with Art. 12 of the Act.
A lawyer may not notify the Courts or advertise the names of other associates than those who work in his office.
A lawyer is obliged to notify the office of the Association of the identity of his associates and to abide in other respects with duties under Art. 11 of the Act respecting Lawyers.
A lawyer shall operate his office properly, be observant of the work performed by his staff, and control that associate lawyers observe the principles of good legal practice.
A lawyer shall ensure that the keeping of his office’s accounts and the safekeeping of valuables, documents, and other relevant data conform to Law and established practice in that respect.
A lawyer shall not allow an unauthorized person access to documents or other data of the office which may concern his Clients.
In case a lawyer operates a Law office on-premises with other classes of business having different confidentiality obligations the lawyer shall take special care that information that shall be kept secret on account of a Client’s interests will not be conveyed to other classes of business, e.g. on account of the use of equipment.
The same rule applies to the staff of the lawyer.
A lawyer shall, without undue delay, reply to letters and other communications received by him in his professional capacity. If a reply to a letter or other communication cannot be given within an acceptable period of time the lawyer shall notify the party concerning and state that a reply to the communication will be sent when this becomes possible.
A lawyer may, in a manner consistent with good legal practice, advertise and promote his services.
A lawyer may not provide incorrect, incomplete, or misleading information in advertisements or by other means, nor acquire business by other like methods.
Concerning Penalties et al.
The Board of the Association shall control that these principles be observed. In this respect, the Board shall consult the Courts and administrative authorities as appropriate.
The Board of the Icelandic Bar Association shall endeavor to resolve internal disputes between lawyers.
The Lawyers’ Disciplinary Committee will render decisions on disputes concerning the interpretation of the present rules.
A lawyer is obliged on request by the Board or, as the case may be, the Lawyers’ Disciplinary Committee, to provide the Board with an adequate explanation of his case concerning an alleged violation or a dispute relating to the interpretation of the above principles. In this regard a lawyer is obliged, without undue delay, to reply to the questions of and heed the summons of the Board or the Disciplinary Committee.
The Lawyers’ Disciplinary Committee may admonish individual members or apply stricter penalties, cf. Art. 26, cf. para. 1, Art. 14 of the Lawyers Act.
In case a lawyer becomes guilty of a violation of good lawyer’s conduct in accordance with a Decree or Opinion of the Lawyers’ Disciplinary Committee that Committee is authorized to specify the lawyer’s name upon publication of the Decree or Opinion in the following instances:-
- if the lawyer has repeatedly violated his professional duties,
- if the lawyer has become guilty of serious violations of good lawyers´ practices
- if other important public interests or those of the legal profession justify this.
The above principles shall not be viewed as exhaustive regarding good legal practice.
The Codex Ethicus of the Icelandic Bar Association was originally adopted on 24 June 1960 but amended on 11 April 1975, 1 April 1977, 24 October 1978, 29 March 1985, and 15 March 1991. The rules were subjected to overall revision and a new Codex Ethicus was approved at the Annual General Meeting on 17 March 2000.