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PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT AND LAMPS IN ADVOCACY

INTRODUCTION

Advocacy is a noble profession and the responsibility to maintain its nobility is in the hands of advocates, who are the officers of the court. Every profession has a code of conduct that must be adhered to. Professional conduct refers to compliance with various duties of an advocate such as duties to the court, duties to the opponent, duties to the client, duties to colleagues, duties to the profession, etc.[1] Professional misconduct occurs when these duties are grossly neglected. Under Section 35 of the Advocates Act 1961,[2]the advocates who are guilty of professional misconduct can be punished by the disciplinary committee of the state bar council which has the power to- Reprimand the Advocate, Suspend the Advocate from the practice for such period as it thinks fit and Remove the name from the Advocate from the Advocate Roll.”

The ‘Seven Lamps of Advocacy’— Honesty, Courage, Judgement, Industry, Wit, Eloquence, and Fellowship—are attributes that Abbott Parry identified as essential for every advocate. These qualities in a lawyer uphold the dignity, strength, and moral integrity of the legal profession. Although these ideas are rather straightforward to state in writing, they are incredibly difficult to implement into practice.[3] It is challenging to uphold these ideals for a number of reasons, such as the lack of sufficient whistleblower protection, a lack of understanding and awareness among advocates, judicial corruption, unhealthy competition among advocates, bureaucratic barriers, etc. Maintaining one’s career and profession may be challenging in light of all these obstacles.

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

Standard of Professional Conduct and Etiquette specifies certain duties and obligations of advocates. The Bar Council of India is empowered by the Advocates Act, 1961 to define some duties and it also empowers the Bar Council of India to take disciplinary action and punish for the professional misconduct committed by an advocate.[4] Some of the duties of an advocate[5] are

  1. Duty To the Court- An Advocate holds a duty toward the court for the administration of justice and to help the court in taking a just and right decision
  2. Duty To the Client- An Advocate must do all the acts that are for the benefit of the client, it establishes the relationship of trust between the advocate and the client.
  3. Duty To the Opponent- An Advocate should not mislead or indulge in unfair and malicious practices against the opponent, to maintain the dignity and fellowship among the officers of the court
  4. Duty to Colleagues- An Advocate should develop a healthy relationship with fellow advocates and should not indulge in any activities that will affect their interests.
  5. Other Duties- These are not the exhaustive list of duties, there are many duties that an advocate should follow such as the duty to the profession, duty to the self, duty to render legal aid, etc.

Professional conduct in the legal profession requires that these duties be followed and if there is a failure in compliance with these duties then such should be punished.

LAMPS OF ADVOCACY

Sir Edward Abbott Parry in 1923 wrote a book named ‘The Seven Lams of Advocacy’ in which he discussed seven qualities that every advocate should possess to succeed as an advocate in the legal profession.[6] These lamps help an advocate become successful and maintain a high standard of integrity and dignity in the legal profession. Seven Lamps of advocacies are as follows:

  1. Honesty – Honesty is the most essential trait that every advocate should possess to gain the trust of his client. An advocate should be honest to the client as well as to the court when presenting his or her client in court. An advocate is expected to be a dependable and trustworthy officer of the court.
  2. Courageous good advocates will bravely represent the interests of their clients in court. Every advocate ought to concentrate on knowledge and experience since they are the two things that lead to courage.
  3. Industry – Industry signifies hard work. An advocate should give their client’s case their all. He should read literature, know relevant developments in the law, and organize his thoughts for stronger arguments. The attorney should give the case everything they have.
  4. The advocate should be able to use wit to navigate tricky courtroom situations. When used correctly and occasionally, it can relieve stress and revitalize the setting, which eventually increases the effectiveness of the court.
  5. Eloquence advocate’s arsenal consists of a powerful vocabulary, fluency, style, and verbatim. Eloquence shows the advocate’s self-assurance in the court, giving him or her the edge to persuade the jury with their expertise.
  6. Judgment is a cognitive capacity that aids in arriving at conclusions and taking action on them. An advocate should be able to assess the case’s merits and communicate those findings to the client.
  7. Fellowship – Fellowship is the colloquial phrase for “friendship and company.” Professionals who solely fight for justice are known as advocates. Every advocate should show respect to the court’s judge and attorney for the opposing party.

CHALLENGES

The ethical foundation of the legal profession is built on professional conduct and effective advocacy. However, there are several issues with the system that make adhering to these ideals very challenging. Such are as follows:

Low Protection for Whistle Blowers – Whistleblowers can aid in identifying legal professional corruption. The Whistle Blowers Protection Act 2014 protects whistle-blowers, but it has several flaws, including the fact that it ignores public servants’ negligence and omissions, that whistle-blowers cannot remain anonymous, and must reveal their identities, that whistle-blowers are not protected from physical attacks, and that frivolous punishment for false complaints (which is not defined in this act) discourages advocacy.[7]

Lack of Awareness – The dearth of instruction on these concepts in the relevant universities may be the reason why district court and session court attorneys frequently lack knowledge of the standards of advocacy and professional conduct.  Lack of a solid education may result in ignorance of these ideas.

Corruption in the Judicial System – Corrupt practices in the judiciary and legal profession are mostly caused by nepotism, bribery, and political interference. Judges like Justice Michael Saldanha, Attorney General KK Venugopal, and others have openly discussed judicial corruption. Justice was hampered by pressure and threats from political parties or other parties, favouring family in a case, and taking bribes to change verdicts.[8]

Unhealthy Competition – In an unhealthy attempt to succeed in the case, attorneys frequently compete with one another. In Bar Council of Maharashtra v. M.V. Dabholkar,[9] eight solicitors were disciplined for professional misconduct for soliciting customers by standing outside magistrate courts and even engaging in physical altercations. These events demonstrate how fierce rivalry in the legal industry forces attorneys to engage in unethical behavior, including cutting fees to outperform rivals, disparaging fellow attorneys, misleading clients about their cases, etc.

Bureaucratic Challenges – Red tape, outstanding cases, a lack of infrastructure, etc. force advocates to engage in malpractices including bribery and document fraud. As of May 2022, 4.7 crore cases were pending in Indian courts;[10] this statistic illustrates how these obstacles to justice have forced lawyers to use unethical tactics.

CONCLUSION

The foundation of the legal profession is ethics and morals, which help to establish the public’s trust in the field of the legal profession. It is necessary to follow a code of conduct and cultivate certain traits to gain the public’s trust.  Every advocate should uphold the highest standards of professionalism, for which they must obey their duties to the court, their colleagues, their clients, their opponents, etc. The advocate must also cultivate specific qualities to thrive, as doing so will undoubtedly contribute to preserving the legal profession’s dignity and the personal growth of each advocate. Although adhering to these principles is essential, several obstacles must be overcome, including a lack of whistle-blower protection, a lack of awareness, corruption, unhealthy competition, bureaucratic difficulties, etc. These obstacles make it difficult for an advocate to fulfill their obligations and acquire the skills needed to succeed as an advocate, so the government and Supreme Court should investigate how to do so. The legal profession urgently needs professional conduct; hence these traits and tenets should be vigorously upheld.

Author(s) Name: Ruchit Yadav (Institute of Law, Nirma University)

Reference(s):

[1] Ishaan Tyagi, ‘A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT BY ADVOCATES IN INDIA’ (2020) 5 Indian Politics & Law Review Journal <https://thelawbrigade.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Ishaan-Tyagi-IPLRJ.pdf> accessed 03 July 2023

[2] Advocate Act 1961, s 35

[3] Aishwarya Agarwal, ‘Seven Lamps of Advocacy’ (LawBhoomi, 09 May 2023) <https://lawbhoomi.com/seven-lamps-of-advocacy/#:~:text=The%20Seven%20Lamps%20of%20Advocacy%20is%20a%20set,courage%2C%20wit%2C%20industry%2C%20eloquence%2C%20legal%20judgement%20and%20fellowship.> accessed 3 July 2023

[4] Diya Gaur, ‘Professional Misconduct of Advocates: Advocacy outside the Law’ (2022) 2(4) Jus Corpus Law Journal <https://www.juscorpus.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/66.-Diya-Gaur.pdf> accessed 04 July 2023

[5] ‘Rules on Professional Standards’ (The Bar Council of India) <http://www.barcouncilofindia.org/about/professional-standards/rules-on-professional-standards/> accessed 04 July 2023

[6] Akash, ‘Seven Lamps of Advocacy in Professional Ethics’ (Legal Katta, 04 April 2023) <https://legalkatta.in/seven-lamps-of-advocacy/> accessed 05 July 2023

[7] Abhishek Choudhary, ‘Whistle Blowing Policy in India – Challenges and Suggested Reforms’ (2019) 9(3) International Journal of Research in Engineering, IT and Social Science <http://indusedu.org/pdfs/IJREISS/IJREISS_3229_68657.pdf > accessed 06 July 2023

[8] V. Venkatesan, ‘Here’s What the AG Wanted to Say About the Judiciary, Before Justice Arun Mishra Stopped Him’ (The Wire, 22 August 2020) <https://thewire.in/law/attorney-general-kk-venugopal-arun-mishra-prashant-bhushan> accessed 06 July 2023

[9] Bar Council of Maharashtra v M.V. Dabholkar (1975) 2 SCC 702

[10] Sumeda, ‘Explained | The clogged state of the Indian judiciary’ (The Hindu, 10 May 2022) <https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/indian-judiciary-pendency-data-courts-statistics-explain-judges-ramana-chief-justiceundertrials/article65378182.ece > accessed 05 July 2023