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The Model Code of Conduct for Legal Aid Lawyers in Criminal Cases


In 2013 the Open Society Justice Initiative under the framework of the Legal Aid Reformers Network convened a working group with the participation of criminal defence lawyers and legal aid practitioners from Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to develop a model code of conduct and a model practice standards for legal aid lawyers in criminal cases. The Code supplements more general Practice Standards, with which it should be read. The intention is for both documents to operate together - with this Code drawing out issues of particular relevance to legal aid lawyers and the Practice Standards applying to all criminal practice. The model code of conduct is based on national precedents drafted in a number of Eastern European countries, notably Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. This effort is an attempt to adapt similar codes which have been drafted in common law countries, such as the US and the UK, to be used in countries that are more influenced by a civil law model. The Practice Standards cover all criminal work, whether or not it is privately or publicly funded. Both the Code and Practice Standards assume that all lawyers, including those funded by legal aid, are primarily guided by a Code of Conduct or its equivalent drafted by their own Bar Associations or other regulatory bodies. Nothing in either is intended to challenge that primacy. However, the two documents provide an opportunity to expand general provisions to cover the specific requirements of legally aided criminal work. They are built on the assumption that common professional obligations apply to all lawyers, both publicly and privately funded, undertaking civil and criminal work.

These two model documents can be used in whatever way is thought best - as advisory or incorporated into contracts with legal aid lawyers. Hopefully, criminal defence lawyers and legal aid practitioners globally will find these documents useful.

Both documents are not subject to copyright; wide use of them is encouraged and suggestions for any amendments are welcome.

  • Geographical area: International