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Corruption infects legal profession

Corruption infects legal profession

There is widespread concern amongst lawyers about corruption within the legal profession, according to a recent global survey. A survey of private practitioners by the International Bar…

There is widespread concern amongst lawyers about corruption within the legal profession, according to a recent global survey.

A survey of private practitioners by the International Bar Association (IBA) has found that in many jurisdictions, well over half of the lawyers surveyed are concerned about corruption in the legal profession.

The survey, which was conducted by the IBA in cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, was launched at the 2010 IBA annual conference in Vancouver, including responses from 642 legal professionals in 95 jurisdictions.

More than one in five lawyers surveyed have been approached to take part in what they believed could be a corrupt transaction; one in three said they had lost business to corrupt law firms or individuals; and nearly one third of respondents said a legal professional they know has been involved in international corruption offences.

Australians consulted in the survey showed significantly less concern over corruption, with just 16 per cent of Australian lawyers labelling corruption as an issue, compared to nearly 90 per cent of respondents from the Commonwealth of Independent States region, including Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova and Russia.

Pakistan and China topped the list for those concerned about corruption, with 100 per cent of respondents in both jurisdictions listing it as a concern, while less than 40 per cent of respondents from the United Kingdom said they had corruption concerns.

The survey also revealed a lack of awareness amongst respondents of key international anti-corruption instruments that are available, such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

"The survey results are disappointing, so we need to do more to raise awareness of these instruments," said OECD director for legal affairs, Nicola Bonucci.

Only 43 per cent of respondents recognised that their bar associations provide some kind of anti-corruption guidance for legal practitioners and just under a third said their firms do not have a clear and specific anti-corruption policy.

The IBA launched the Anti-Corruption Strategy for the Legal Profession project to focus on the role lawyers play in fighting corruption in international business transactions and the impact on the legal practice of international anti-corruption instruments.

"The organisations involved in the strategy have understood that, by joining forces together, the success of a much needed industry-wide approach to international corruption will be guaranteed," said IBA president, Fernando Pelaez-Pier.

The full survey report can be found at www.anticorruptionstrategy.org

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