What exactly is "unacceptable professional conduct"?
Unacceptable professional conduct is a phrase that is often heard in BD. We examine what it means and who decides what it constitutes
Q: What exactly is “unacceptable professional conduct”? Is there some guidance as to what it means? Who decides — the RIBA or Arb?
A: A more exacting standard of expertise, performance and behaviour is expected from a “professional”, as well as independence of advice, upon which a client and the public can rely. From this came the legal concept of “duty of care” — the basis of any contract for professional services.
For architects this is carefully described under the standard RIBA appointment agreement as: “The architect exercises reasonable skill, care and diligence in accordance with the normal standards of the architect’s profession in performing the services and discharging the architect’s obligations.”
This duty of care is the basis upon which architects are generally judged in the UK, whether explicitly described in an appointment agreement or not. It also forms the basis for professional indemnity insurance policies, so be very aware of any additional “fitness for purpose” type contractual obligations, which are often put into bespoke appointment agreements, but are not generally covered by PI policies.
Arb and the RIBA both have codes of professional conduct which set the standards on which professional integrity, competence and negligence are assessed. Arb’s focuses on standards for competence and the RIBA’s includes more on integrity and professional behaviour. Both have professional conduct processes for assessing complaints.
There has built up over time, from case law and professional conduct decisions and published guidance, clear expectations of what is required for acceptable professional conduct and integrity.
It is worthwhile (and valid CPD!) to occasionally remind yourselves of the Arb and RIBA codes and to be fully aware of your professional obligations. Also to always check and be sure of any contractual professional obligations in your appointment and employment contracts.
Disclaimer: This column is for general information only. It should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific legal advice relevant to particular circumstances. Neither BD nor the contributors’ employers accept any responsibility for the personal views expressed in this section.