THE Law Society will release a new set of ethical guidelines tomorrow to help combat rising complaints about unprofessional conduct. The regulations, which cover all aspects of professional conduct, have taken a working committee four years to prepare and will replace English standards now considered to be outdated. The guidelines are coming out at a time when the society is tightening up its internal investigation procedures and increasing the checking of lawyers' records. Last year, 441 complaint files were opened on solicitors following reports from the public, compared to 424 in 1993. Complaints alleging unprofessional conduct rose as a proportion from 35 per cent to 58.3 per cent although actual misconduct claims dropped from 329 to 257 incidents. The number of cases resolved through conciliation fell to 20 per cent of all complaints despite two-fifths of matters being settled in 1993. The largest area of dissatisfaction was found in conveyancing, which represented 40 per cent of all cases. Issues covered in the two-volume report are proper fee charging arrangements, complaints handling and confidentiality. Also mentioned in the 15 chapters are the appropriate nature of retainer fees for lawyers, compliance and quality of legal work, conflict of interest and the nature of fiduciary duties related to lawyers acting for another party's benefit as a trustee. The Law Society secretary, Patrick Moss, said yesterday that the guidelines would clarify ambiguity in adopting the United Kingdom rules to the territory's unique legal framework. He said the length of time taken to approve the principles emphasised their importance. 'It was felt some time ago that Hong Kong should have its own guide to take into account our own legal conditions,' he said. 'It has been a very long and difficult exercise. 'The idea is that it will set standards of practice that solicitors will be able to follow. Hopefully, it will make them quite clear of their obligations; both to the court, to their clients and fellow solicitors,' Mr Moss said. 'For many years, we have followed on the English Law Society's guide but this is now up to its sixth edition and it is very voluminous. It no longer applies to our situation,' he said. In Hong Kong, there are about 13,000 staff employed by solicitors' firms. Of these employees, about 900 are authorised clerks permitted to visit clients in detention. When allegations of professional misconduct are substantiated, an investigation committee is established to adjudicate the performance of members, staff and trainee solicitors. The committee considered 137 matters in 1994, as opposed to 119 in 1993. Last year a Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal determined eight proceedings. One solicitor was struck off, six fined and a clerk was barred from employment in the profession for six months.