Code of Ethics and Conduct for Advocates

The social commitment of advocates to the society results in certain code of conduct and ethics that are expected to be met by them. Such requirements ensure that advocates act prudently maintaining decorum and integrity towards their profession thereby fulfilling their commitment towards the society. This blog enumerates the ethical duties of Lawyers towards their profession and everyone they come in contact with professionally.

Introduction

The label of an advocate brings with it an obligation to serve the society, to guide the ignorant, arose the lethargic, calm the overwhelmed and to console the victimised. The social commitment of advocates to the society results in certain code of conduct and ethics that are expected to be met by them. Such requirements ensure that advocates act prudently maintaining decorum and integrity towards their profession thereby fulfilling their commitment towards the society.

Legal Ethics

Definition

Legal ethics consist of both written and unwritten codes of conduct that regulate an advocate in maintaining his profession as well as his relationship with clients, opponents, and the court. Chief Justice Marshall observed that maintaining nobility and dignity of the legal profession, securing an essence of cooperation among the bar and bench to facilitate the highest standard of justice, establishing fair dealings of standards of justice, instituting honour and fair dealing of the counsel with his client opponent and witnesses, upholding a spirit of brotherhood in the Bar itself and ensuring that lawyers discharge their responsibilities to the community, are the core objective of legal ethics.[1]

Elements

The four key elements of legal ethics are adversarial advocacy, responsible lawyering, moral activism and ethics of care.

Adversarial advocacy guides the relationship between advocate and his client. It directs for complete allegiance of an advocate to his client irrespective of any possible moral accountability or hostile outcome to himself or any others. An advocate is an officer of court and guardian of the legal system and thus it is his duty to uphold the spirit of the law whilst struggling for a just and fair decision for his client. A responsible advocate shall therefore strive to maintain balance between the interest of both his client and the legal system.

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Cause lawyering or alternative lawyering[2] is to be preferred over conventional lawyering so as to facilitate and establish substantive justice. Lawyering is a public profession and not a fee-for-service. Lawyers are not a hired gun who would fight for any client and advance any interest. Lawyering is not a bidding process where the highest bidder gets the best service. Lawyering should be beheld as a moral and political activity that encourages the pursuit of the right, the good, or the just.As an advocate gets ample opportunity to study human nature in its various aspects and phases, with the experience he gains over a period he should endeavour to preserve relationships and avoid harm rather than prolonging the dispute for monetary gain.

General Code of Ethics and Conduct

The Bar Council of India through the power vested on them to prescribe standards of professional conduct and ethics that is to be followed by an Advocate by Section 49 (1) (c), Advocates Act, 1961 has formulated many rules on the matter. According to the Bar Council, these rules arise out of their duty towards the court, the client, their opponents and other advocates.

Duty to Court

An advocate has a duty towards the court to act in a dignified manner and respect the court. It is best not to communicate in private to the judges. Appearing in proper dress code, not wearing bands or gowns in public places, and refusing to appear in front of relations are also part of this conduct.

Duty to Client

An advocate is bound to uphold the interest of his client, to disclose information fully and frankly, and not to suppress any material or evidence. He also has a duty to not disclose communications with clients to a third party. It is important that the advocate should not take undue advantage by exploiting the confidence vested in him by his client or intimate the client on amounts. He should press the facts and law with ardor and vehemence to protect the interest of the client and to establish justice.

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Duty to Opponents and other Advocates

The advocate also has a duty to the opponents to carry out the legitimate promises made and not to negotiate directly with the opposite party. Towards the other advocates, there is a duty not to promote the unauthorised practice of law and not to advertise or solicit work.

Conclusion

It would be amateur if this article ends without mentioning the ethical issue raised in the recent Chennai rape incident. Shortly after the release of the news of the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl, the Advocates Association of Madras (MHCAA) declared that its lawyers will not represent the accused in court[3]. Conversely, the advocate who took up the case of the 8-year-old girl in Kathua was intimidated and threatened by many of the Bar Council members including the President forcing her to not appear for the victim.[4]These are situations where professional ethics conflict with perspectives and personal sentiments which is a real catch-22.

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[1]Naiana Jain &Chitrakshi Singh, The Ethics And Morality Of Legal Profession, AIC, (Jan. 13, 2018, 16.43 IST) http://www.internationalseminar.org/XIII_AIS/TS%201%20(B)/19.%20Ms.%20Naina%20Jain.pdf.

[2]Arvind Narrain&Arun K. Thiruvengadam, Social Justice Lawyering And The Meaning Of Indian Constitutionalism: A Case Study Of The Alternative Law Forum, 31 Wisconsin International Law Journal 525, 555 (2014).

[3]Manasa Rao, Do Chennai child rape accused deserve lawyers? Advocates divided, TNM, (July 18, 2018, 13.55 IST),https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/do-chennai-child-rape-accused-deserve-lawyers-advocates-divided-84976

[4]AnandSoondas, Kathua rape case: Lawyer braves threats and protests, says it’s a fight for her daughter too, TOI, (Apr. 15, 2018, 03.34 IST), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/kathua-rape-case-lawyer-braves-threats-and-protests-says-its-a-fight-for-her-daughter-too/articleshow/63766781.cms