In this blog post, Mr.Sreeraj.K.V, student of Government Law College, Ernakulam, Kerala writes an article on Professional ethics in law. This article covers the importance of professional ethics, its impact in the field of law, various duties and responsibilities of legal practitioners, concerned authorities to look into the matter as well as famous judgments regarding the said topic.
Professional ethics encompasses an ethical code governing the conduct of persons engaged in the practice of law as well as persons engaged in the legal sector. All members of the legal profession have a paramount duty to the Court and to the administration of justice. The duties prevail over all other duties, especially in the circumstances where there may be a conflict of duties. It is important that legal practitioners conduct themselves with integrity, provide proper assistance to the court, and promote public confidence in the court system. In carrying out their duties, they are required and expected to deal with other members of the legal profession with courtesy and integrity. Advocates, apart from being professionals, are also officers of the court and plays a vital role in the administration of justice.
Accordingly, the set of rules that governs their professional conduct arise out of the duties that they owe to the court, the client, their opponent and other advocates. Rules on the professional standards that an advocate needs to maintain are mentioned in Chapter II, Part VI of the Bar Council of India Rules. These Rules have been provided under section 49(1)(c) of the Advocates act, 1961.
Rules on an advocate’s duty towards the Court.
- Act in a dignified manner
An advocate must behave in a dignified manner during the time of his case as well as while acting before the court. He should conduct himself with self-respect. Whenever there is a ground for a complaint against a judicial officer, the advocate has a duty to submit his grievance to the proper authorities concerned.
- Respect the Court
Advocate must show his respect towards the Court. He/she has to keep in mind that the dignity and respect towards the judicial officer is essential for the survival of a free community.
- No communication in private
Advocate should not communicate in private to the judicial officer in any matter pending before the court. Advocate should not influence the decision of a court in any matter through illegal or improper acts such as coercion, bribe etc.
- Refuse to act in an illegal manner towards the opposition
An advocate should not act in an illegal manner towards the opposing counsel or opposing party or the opposing counsel. He should use his best effort to restrain his client from acting any illegal, improper manner or any unfair practices towards the judiciary, opposing counsel or opposing party.
- Refuse to represent clients who insist any unfair means of practice
An advocate shall refuse to represent the client who insist on using unfair or improper means. He shall be dignified in using his language in correspondence and in arguments in the Court. He shall not scandalously damage the reputation of the parties on false grounds during the pleadings.
- Appear in proper dress code
Advocate should be present at all times in the court only in the proper dress code prescribed by the Bar Council of India Rules and the dress code must be presentable.
- Not represent the establishment in which he is a member
An advocate should not appear in the court, for or against any establishments in which he is a member. But this rule does not apply in the case of appointment as an ‘Amicus curiae’ or without a fee on behalf of the Bar Council.
- Not appear in matters of pecuniary interests
Advocate should no act on behalf of any matter in which he has a financial interest. He should not accept a brief from a company in which he is a Director.
- Not stand as surety for the clients
Advocate should not stand as a surety for his client, or certify the soundness of a surety that his client requires for the purpose of any legal proceedings.
Advocate’s duties towards his client
- Bound to accept briefs
- Not withdrawn from service
- Not appear in matters in which he himself is witness
- Full and frank disclosure to the client
- Uphold interest of the client
- Not suppress any material of evidence
- Not disclose any information of his client and himself
- Not receive any interest in actionable claim
- Not charge depending on success of matters.
- Keep proper accounts etc.
Advocate’s duty towards his opponent counsel
- Not to negotiate directly with opposing party
Advocate should not in any way directly communicate with the opposing party regarding any matter of the case except through the advocate representing the party.
- Carry out legitimate promises made
Advocate should do all best possible legitimate promises made to his party, even though not reduced to writing under the rules of the Court.
Other duties include:
- Not advertise or solicit works
- Sign board and name plate must be of reasonable size
- Not promote unauthorized practice of law.
- Obtain the consent of the fellow advocates for the vakalat in the same case.
Advantages of having a codifies professional ethics
- Means of social control. It will keep new perspectives to the profession according to the social requirements and expectations. The dignity of the profession will be required to be maintained in maintaining the public confidence in it.
- Ethical codes prevent interference of government in their matters through its agencies. If a degree of standardisation is needed, it will keep Governmental interference outside.
- Ethical codes are important in developing higher standards of conduct. The code also brings about a sense of judgement towards the profession
- The existence of the code will have great educative, corrective and appreciable value for both the lawyers and the common men.
- State Bar Council and its Disciplinary Committee
Section 35 of the Advocates Act deals with the provisions regarding formulation and functioning of Disciplinary Committee under the State Bar Council. Under this, If any legal practitioner, if found guilty of any kind of professional misconduct, after providing an opportunity of being heard, may make any of the following orders:
- Dismiss the complaint or where the proceedings were initiated at the instance of the State Bar Council, direct that the proceedings be filed;
- Reprimand the advocate
- Suspend the advocate for a period as it may deem fit
- Remove the name of the advocate from the State roll of advocates.
In the case of Nortanmal Chauaisia v. M.R.Murli, the Supreme Court held that the term Misconduct has not been defined under the Advocates Act. Bu the term envisages breach of discipline, although it would not be possible to lay down as to what would lead to misconduct or indiscipline, which is wide enough to include wrongful act or omission, whether done intentionally or unintentionally. It also means improper behaviour, intentional wrong doing or deliberate violation of a rule of standard of behaviour.
The professional ethics can also be stated as the duties that has to be followed by an advocate during the course of his profession. These are moral and the very basic courtesy which every person in this field should know. An advocate who does not work with sincerity, who do not follow the rules of conduct, is said to have violated the code of ethics of this profession. The fundamental aim of legal ethics is to maintain honour and dignity of the law profession., to ensure the spirit of friendly co-operation, to ensure honourable and fair dealing of the counsel with his clients as well as to secure the responsibilities of the lawyers towards the society.
 Retrieved on: http://www.lsc.sa.gov.au/dsh/ch02s01.php
 Retrieved on: http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/about/professional-standards/rules-on-professional-standards/
 Retrieved on: http://www.internationalseminar.org/XIII_AIS/TS%201%20(B)/19.%20Ms.%20Naina%20Jain.pdf
 Nortanmal Chauaisia v. M.R. Murli 2004 AIR SCW 2894 retrieved on: http://www.internationalseminar.org/XIII_AIS/TS%201%20(B)/19.%20Ms.%20Naina%20Jain.pdf