The Solicitors Regulation Authority in the UK announced that week that a partner with international firm DLA Piper is to be prosecuted by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for professional misconduct over his role in in an e-mail scandal which emerged in May 2014. The partner, Nicholas West, exchanged e-mails with his client, the chief executive of the English Premier League Richard Scudamore, containing sexist and explicit references to a female member of staff at the Premier League.
It is worth all professionals remembering that such conduct could find them before their disciplinary body facing a charge of professional misconduct and possible exclusion from the profession.
Most professional Codes of Conduct contain some provision relating to "bringing the profession into disrepute". Indeed the original definition of professional misconduct is "conduct which is infamous or disgraceful in a professional respect". One could argue that West's conduct falls within that category.
However, I think there is scope to cast the net wider even than sexist/racist or otherwise bigoted remarks in an email context. It is easy to envisage a scenario in which a professional who made derogatory or offensive comments orally being the subject of a complaint to their regulatory body.
Professionals must remember that is not just the standard to which they practice their profession which is subject to disciplinary sanction - the social standard by which they treat or comment upon other people may be examined also.
West apologised for his role in the affair and an internal investigation by DLA Piper ruled that he should not be sacked. But after the case was referred by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, a tribunal found that he could be liable to face more action. If found guilty he could be struck off the solicitors' roll.