Professional Ethics in Law

Table of Contents hide

Introduction

The seven lamps of advocacy, as propounded by Judge Edward Abbot Perry in his books titled by the same name, act as a medium of guiding the advocates in maintaining their professional ethics and conduct in a righteous manner. It is quite significant to follow the necessary conduct and ethics this noble profession commands. Legal ethics form an inseparable part of the practice of law. Hence, under all circumstances, an advocate must ensure that he upholds the values and ethics associated with this noble and respectable profession.

The seven lamps of advocacy are just one of the many guiding principles laid down for legal professionals, legal ethics are wider than those seven lamps and may include many other principles. In fact, even the Advocates Act, 1961 provides for formulating standards of professional conduct and etiquettes for advocates. The Act also allows the Bar Council of India (hereinafter referred to as “BCI”) to frame rules to suggest the standard of professional conduct that is to be adhered by advocates practicing in the territory of India.

Bar Council of India’s Rules for Advocates

The BCI has formulated certain rules under Chapter II of Part VI. These rules deal with specific standards of professional conduct that are applicable to lawyers practicing in India. The chapter deals with the different kinds of duties of an advocate. Although the chapter deals with roughly thirty-nine rules, I have made an attempt to summarize those in a brief yet precise manner.

Duty of An Advocate Towards Court of Law

1. Conduct

An advocate must ensure that he is acting in a dignified manner at all times. Submission of grievances must be done in a proper dignified manner and not disrespectfully.

2. Refrain from private conversations

An advocate must not have private conversations pertaining to the advocate’s case that is pending before the court. Even a mere attempt to influence the court of law would be strictly unethical. Therefore, an advocate must not resort to such improper means.

3. Must not act in an improper manner

An advocate must not act in such a manner that may come of as improper or illegal with the opposing party or their counsel. All attempts must be made to ensure that even the clients refrain from acting in an improper or illegal manner towards any of the parties or the judge/s.

4. Dress Code

An advocate must under all circumstances appear in court in the dress prescribed in accordance with the Bar Council of India Rules. The bands or the gowns must be worn to courts only except for some exceptional ceremonial occasions or as provided by the Bar Council of India or courts.

5. Respectful attitude and conduct towards the Court

Although this goes without saying, one must always show utmost respect towards the court. In my opinion, the court of law is sacred to the legal professionals. Hence, all advocates must uphold the dignity of the court.

6. Choose clients wisely

An advocate must strictly refrain from representing clients that want to resort to improper or unfair means. An advocate must avoid using unparliamentary language while arguing in a court of law.

7. Financial Interest Matters

An advocate must avoid appearing in matters where his pecuniary interests lie. If he has a personal financial interest in a particular matter, he should not plead or act in such matter.

8. Should not represent particular establishments

Where an advocate is a member of a specific establishment he must not appear for or against the aforesaid establishment. Nonetheless, there are certain exceptions to this rule.

9. When the Bench is related to the Advocate

If any member of the bench (father, mother, brother, sister, daughter, grandfather, etc) is related to the advocate, he must not appear before the bench.

Duty of An Advocate Towards the Client

1. Accept Briefs

An advocate is to accept briefs in the courts or before some other authority before or in which he proposes to practice.

2. Fees

The fees charged by an advocate must be at par with the fees charged by fellow advocates (of similar standing) and may depend upon the nature of the case.

3. No withdrawing from case

Once an advocate has agreed to serve a client, he must refrain from withdrawing from the case unless he has sufficient cause. Even in case of withdrawal from the case, the advocate must provide reasonable and sufficient notice to the client and refund the surplus fee that has not accrued to the client.

4. If witness, must refrain from representing the client

Where the advocate is a witness in the case, he must refrain from accepting the brief. Even where the advocate realizes that he may be needed as a witness in the case, he must discontinue representing the client.

5. Disclosure

The advocates must be transparent about his connection with the parties and any interest in or about the controversy that may affect the client’s judgement with respect to engaging him or continuing the engagement.

6. Interest of the client is foremost

The advocate must not fail to uphold the interest of their client. This must be done in a fair and honourable manner.

7. Suppression of any evidence.

An advocate (prosecution of a criminal trial) must refrain from suppressing any sort of material or evidence which may clearly help to prove the innocence of the accused.

8. Privileged Conversations

An advocate must refrain from disclosing the communications made by his client to him as well as the advice given by him in the proceedings. An advocate is not barred from disclosing information if it violates Section 126 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

9. Interest in Actionable Claim

An advocate must refrain from accepting a share in any actionable claim. (Not applicable to certain things like stock, shares, debentures of government securities, etc)

10. Property arising of legal proceeding

An advocate must not purchase or bid, directly or indirectly, through anybody, any property that was sold in a legal proceeding he was professionally engaged in. Nonetheless, an advocate can do so for his client if he has been authorised to do so in writing. Furthermore, an advocate must not bid in court auctions. An advocate must not acquire by way of sale, gift, exchange or any other mode of transfer, a property in which he is professionally engaged and where such property is the subject matter of a suit or other proceeding.

11. Fees not to be adjusted against personal liability

Although self-explanatory, an advocate must not adjust the fees so as to cover his personal liability to the client, where the liability is not incurred as a part of his employment.

12. Keep Accounts

An advocate is required to keep an account of the money the client has entrusted with them. The advocate must not divert any funds that have been received to cover expenses in the form of fees unless explicitly told to do so. Where the advocate receives a certain sum on behalf of the client, he is bound to intimate the client about the same. Where the proceeding has come to an end, the advocate may adjust his fees from the account of the client. The balance amount after all the necessary deduction, must be returned to the client. A copy of the accounts must be rightfully handed over to the client upon demand. A charge may be levied for the same.

13. Refrain from lending money to client

An advocate must refrain from lending money to client for the same legal proceeding the advocate is a part of. Where the ruling of the Court is such that the advocate is compelled to make a payment to the Court on behalf of the client for the progress of the suit or proceeding.

14. Must not appear for the opposite party

An advocate must refrain from appearing as the counsel for the opposite party in the same matter where the said advocate has advised a party, drawn pleadings, or acted for the party.

15. Miscellaneous Duties

An advocate must refrain from instigating litigation. The advocate should act as per the instructions given by the client or his authorized agent. Charges must not be solely dependent on the success of matters or charge for his services as per the portion of the property the client has received after winning that particular case in court. The advocate must not take advantage of the client’s trust or confidence reposed in them.

Duty of An Advocate Towards Fellow Advocates

1. No advertising or soliciting work

An advocate must strictly refrain from advertising his work via circulars, advertisements, etc.

2. Sign Board and Nameplate

The aforementioned things must be of reasonable size and must have no mention of the advocate being President or Member of a Bar Council. Such board or nameplate must also not include any mention of the advocate being a member of any Association or that he has been a judge, the advocate’s association with a specific case, etc.

3. Consent to appear

Where a fellow advocate has already filed a vakalatnama or memo, the advocate must refrain from representing the same matter unless the fellow advocate has consented to the same. In absence of the written consent, the advocate has the alternative to apply to the court for appearance.

4. Miscellaneous duties

An advocate must not use his name to promote unauthorized practice of law and must not accept a fee less than the fee (the one that is taxable under rules) when the client is able to pay more.

Duty of An Advocate Towards Opponents

1. No direct negotiation with other party

An advocate must refrain himself from direct negotiotion with the party, instead, negotiation must be done via the advocate representing the other party.

2. Legitimate promise to be fulfilled/executed

An advocate must ensure that all legitimate promises are being carried out or executed even when it is not given in written form.

The Seven Lamps of Advocacy

As mentioned before, the exceptionally enlightening book “Seven Lamps of Advocacy” was written by Judge Edward Abbot Perry. According to the aforesaid book, the lamp of courage, the lamp of wit, the lamp of industry, the lamp of honesty, the lamp of fellowship, the lamp of judgement and the lamp of eloquence, together, form the seven lamps of advocacy. Let us delve deeper into these seven lamps.

1. The Lamp of Courage – Advocacy can be compared to a battlefield, a large part of it revolves around facing the opposite party (the opponent) in the courtroom. Irrespective of how easy it seems on the outside, having the courage to wake up every morning irrespective of what is going on in one’s life and arguing for the client in the courtroom, is not a piece of cake. It requires perseverance and courage. Being courageous also mandates being fearless and bold. An advocate must be bold and courageous enough to tackle social evils.

2. The Lamp of Wit – It is often believed that an advocate’s wit has the power to reverse a judge from unwise course even when arguments may not be of much use. An advocate’s wit may come handy in times when his well-prepared argument fails to make the case. Therefore, in order to exercise their wit, the advocate must also have a presence of mind. Nonetheless, it is necessary to apply wit only when it is actually needed, for it may turn a perfectly alright argument against the opposite party or a conversation with the judge, topsy turvy.

3. The Lamp of Industry – Being an advocate requires you to be commendable at the necessary skillset one needs to be a successful advocate. An industrious advocate is bound to become successful. It is also extremely important to understand that there is no substitute to hard work. Therefore, apart from being updated with the latest developments in law, one must also be hardworking. Being ignorant of the law, is the greatest mistake an advocate can make. This is one of the reasons why law students are encouraged to read judgments and be updated with the latest developments and amendments in law. For a simple act of ignorance of law, may cost the advocate as well as his clients.

4. The Lamp of Honesty – Honesty is not only important to advocacy, but also essential to practice it in day-to-day life. An advocate’s honesty usually reflects in his work, etiquettes and conduct. In my opinion, one cannot ‘possess’ this quality, it must be practiced righteously in all circumstances. An advocate might come off as reliable to their client if they maintain utmost transparency with them. It is only possible to maintain transparency if one is honest. Honest intentions also help shape a successful and dependable advocate. Honesty must not only reflect in the advocate’s arguments in court, but also in his conduct. Being honest not only makes him more reliable, but also adds to his reputation. Depicting utmost honesty makes an advocate all the more trustworthy in the eyes of his fellow advocates and clients.

5. The lamp of Fellowship – As stated before, advocacy can be partially equated with a battlefield. Hence, it is pertinent for an advocate to keep his cool and not hold a grudge or be bitter against their fellow advocates. Upholding fellowship is a very crucial trait one needs to possess as an advocate. In fact, even in moot court competitions, law students are encouraged to address to the opposing counsel as ‘learned’. The Judge must also be referred to as ‘learned Judge’. An advocate must have a positive outlook and attitude and must refrain from taking every little thing to heart.

6. The Lamp of Judgement – Judgement is a prerequisite in the practice of law. One must have the ability to come to a reasonable conclusion, no matter what the final outcome may be. Anticipating the outcome also comes handy in taking proper recourse, framing arguments, and interpreting the law. Having a fair judgement may also help in giving sound legal advice to the client. Judgement plays a key role in the interpretation and application of the laws as well. It may also prove beneficial in calculating and anticipating the opposite party’s next move in court.

7. The Lamp of Eloquence – Advocacy commands a good hold over your oratory skills. Speaking can be equated to an art that most people have not mastered yet. Nonetheless, most advocates polish their speaking skills in the course of law schools and internships. It would not be wrong to say that speaking comes naturally to an advocate. For it is through this art that he earns bread. Such speaking skills must reflect confidence and must be persuasive enough to sway the judge’s attention in his favour. Not only must an advocate aim to leave a positive impression whilst arguing, but also try incessantly through his impeccable research and speaking skills, to win the case in favour of his clients.

Conclusion

The aforementioned points are extremely crucial in advocacy. Hence, an advocate practicing in India must take note of all the standards of professional conduct that have been laid down in the form of Rules by the BCI. These professional ethics may help the advocates to act as the Pillars of Justice in the most righteous manner. Notwithstanding the Rules, an advocate must also try and inculcate the seven lamps of advocacy in his practice of the law.

References

http://lawfaculty.du.ac.in/files/course_material/Old_Course_Material/LB-106%20Advocay%20and%20Professional%20Ethics%20materials%20full.pdf
https://www.legalbites.in/professional-ethics-seven-lamps-of-advocacy/
https://www.lawaudience.com/the-seven-lamps-of-advocacy/
https://www.lawtool.net/post/seven-lamps-of-advocacy
http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/about/professional-standards/rules-on-professional-standards/

Note – The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. We try our level best to avoid any misinformation or abusive content. If you found any of such content on this website, please report us at info@lawcorner.in

Interested to publish your article on our website? Click Here to submit your article.

Aayushi Mittra

Aayushi Mittra is a Fourth Year Law Student pursuing 5 Years BLS LLB at SVKM's Pravin Gandhi College of Law. Securing AIR 18 in CS Foundation exams, she wishes to not restrict herself to the ambit of company law but also explore various other fields of law like IPR, Cyber Law, Real Estate, Tech Law and Sports Law. Apart from academics, she immensely enjoys participating in moots, MUNs and article writing competitions.

lc-internship