Duty to Avoid Exploitation

This section will explain the duty to avoid exploitation. On the training activities page you will find a quiz to test your understanding of this concept.

One of the most important responsibilities of a legal adviser is the duty to avoid exploitation.

Refugees are often in an extremely vulnerable situation. When you are their legal adviser, they are placing their trust in you. With every client, you have to remember that you may play a life or death role in that person’s life. Because of this, you have an enormous responsibility to ensure that you treat each client with dignity and respect, and avoid engaging in any relationship that might exploit a client for your own gain.

What rules should legal advisers follow to be sure they are not exploiting a client?

The most important rule is: no sexual or business relationships with any current clients.

Any sexual or business relationship, even if the client initiates it, proposes it, encourages it or agrees to it, is presumed to be exploitative. Therefore, no business or sexual relationships with clients can be allowed.

As a legal advocate, you also have a responsibility to avoid any relationship that directly or indirectly compromises your independent judgment on behalf of your client. For example you should not enter into a business of sexual relationship with someone who decides refugee claims.

In sum:

  • No sexual relationships with clients.
  • No business relationships with clients.
  • No relationships that compromise independent judgement.

In general, you should not enter into any financial relationships with a client until at least six months after you stopped representing him or her.

However, there is one narrow exception. If you purchased goods or services from someone, and that person later comes to you for legal help, and no other adviser was available, then you can continue to purchase goods or services from him or her as long as doing so complies with the conflict of interest rules.

For example, imagine that you hire someone to clean your house once a week. After a year, she reveals to you that she is a refugee who fled her home country to avoid being jailed for practicing her religion. Now she has learned that the local police are cracking down on foreigners without residence permits. She asks for your help in seeking refugee status, and there are no legal advisors to whom you can refer her. Assuming there are no other ethical complications, you can represent her, and she can continue to clean your house.