Lawyers throughout the world are specialised professionals who place the
interests of their clients above their own, and strive to obtain respect for the
Rule of Law. They have to combine a continuous update on legal developments with
service to their clients, respect for the courts, and the legitimate aspiration
to maintain a reasonable standard of living. -International Bar Association's
International Principles on Conduct for the Legal Profession
The above excerpt sums up the important role that lawyers play in society and
the demanding responsibilities they have. This paper aims to highlight the
importance of ethics in legal profession and to set out the key principles that
apply to the legal profession. It is not intended to serve as a complete code of
conduct. Instead, it is a brief practical guide for those in legal profession so
that they may understand the importance of maintaining high professional
standards and are aware of their main duties.
The Legal Profession plays an important role in the administration of Justice.
The Lawyers are considered to be the centre of the administration of justice.
Lawyers are the one who are related to the parties, they listen to the party and
collect all the relevant legal materials relating to the case and argue the case
in court, thus helping the Judge to arrive at the correct and fair judgment.
Without the assistance of the lawyers it would be a superhuman task for the
Judge to come at the satisfactory judgment. Justice P.N. Sapru has stated that:
justification for the existence to the counsel is that each side to the
controversy should be in a position to present its case before an impartial
tribunal in the best and most effective manner possible.
The Lawyers play important role in the maintenance of peace and order in the
society. Learned C.L. Anand has rightly stated that the advocates share with the
judges the responsibility for maintaining order in the community. They do not
promote stripes but settle them. They stand for legal order which is one of the
noblest functions in the society.
The order which the advocates seek is not of grave but based on justice. It is
the foremost function of the advocates to fulfil the desire of their clients by
providing them Justice. It is the desire of every human on the earth.
The Lawyers also play a very important role in law reform also. By reason of the
experience gained in daily application and interpretation of laws, lawyers are
best aware of the imperfection, of the legal system and constitute the most
competent class of men to advise on law reform and to promote popular enthusiasm
and support for it. The most difficult part of the process of legislation is
drafting of its provisions and no one is better fitted to give guidance on this
than the lawyers.
Thus, it can be said that the legal profession is a profession of great honour.
This is made for public welfare, for public good. This is not for making money
but to provide Justice to the right person. An advocate is an officer of the
Court and is required to maintain towards the Court a respectful attitude
bearing in mind that the dignity of the judicial office. The Supreme Court has
rightly observed that the legal profession is a partner with the judiciary in
the administration of justice.
What Are Ethics?
Ethics are principles and values, which together with rules of conduct and laws,
regulate a profession, such as the legal profession. They act as an important
guide to ensure right and proper conduct in the daily practise of the law
Areas covered by ethical standards include:
Need For Professional Ethics
- Independence, honesty and integrity.
- The lawyer and client relationship, in particular, the duties owed by
the lawyer to his or her client. This includes matters such as client care,
conflict of interest, confidentiality, dealing with client money, and fees.
- The lawyer as an advocate, in particular, a lawyer's duties to the
- Competence, which encompasses academic qualifications and training, and
meeting other practising requirements such as holding a valid practising
certificate or licence.
- A lawyer's duties to persons other than a client.
- A lawyer's duties to other lawyers.
- Advertising of legal services.
- Human rights and access to justice
The legal profession is necessarily the keystone of the arch of Government. If
it is weakened, and allowed to be a subject of the corroding and demoralising
influence of those, who are controlled by craft, greed or gain or other unworthy
motive, sooner or later the arch must fall. The future of the country depends
upon the maintenance of the shrine of the justice, pure and unrolled by the
advocates. It cannot be so maintained, unless the conduct and motives of the
members of the legal profession are what they object to be.
Therefore, it becomes the plain and simple duty of the lawyers to use their
influence in every legitimate way to help and make the Bar what it is ought to
be. The committee has further observed that members of Bar, like Judges, are
officers of the court and like judges, they should hold office only during good
behaviour and this good behaviour should be defined and measured by ethical
standards, however high, as necessary to keep the administration of justice,
pure and unsullied. Such standard may be crystallized into a written code of
professional ethics and the lawyer failing to conform thereto, should not be
permitted to practise or retain membership in the particular organisation.
Importance Of Professional Ethics In Legal Profession
First, because lawyers and judges are integral to the working-out of the law and
the Rule of Law itself is founded on principles of justice, fairness and equity.
If they do not adhere and promote these ethical principles then the law will
fall into disrepute and people will resort to alternative means of resolving
conflict. The Rule of Law will fail with a rise of public discontent.
Second, lawyers are professionals.
This concept conveys the notion that issues of ethical responsibility and duty
are an inherent part of the legal profession. It has been said that a
profession's most valuable asset is its collective reputation and the confidence
which that inspires. The legal profession especially must have the confidence of
Justice Kirby of the Australian High Court once noted:
The challenge before the legal profession....is to resolve the basic paradoxes
which it faces....To reorganise itself in such a way as to provide more
effective, real and affordable access to legal advice and representation by
ordinary citizens. To preserve and where necessary, to defend the best of the
old rules requiring honesty, fidelity loyalty, diligence, competence and
dispassion in the service of clients, above mere self-interest and specifically
above commercial self-advantage.
Third, because lawyers are admitted as officers of the court and therefore have
an obligation to serve the court and the administration of justice.
Thus, fundamental aim of legal ethics is to maintain the honour and dignity of
the law profession, to secure the spirit of friendly cooperation between the
Bench and the Bar in the promotion of higher standard of justice. The legal
profession is not a business but a profession created by state for public good.
The Bar Council Of India Rules
The Advocates Act, 1961 empowers the Bar Council of India to frame certain
rules. Section 49 (1) (c) of the Act grants general power to The Bar Council of
India to make rules relating to the standards of professional conduct and
etiquette to be observed by advocates. The rules formed by Bar Council of India
is given in Chapter – II of Part IV of the Bar Council of India Rules tells the
duty of an Advocate to the Court, to the client, to opponent, to colleagues etc.
Preamble of Part IV, Chapter II reads and makes the following points clear:
- An advocate shall, at all times, comport himself in a manner befitting
his status as an officer of the court, a privileged member of the community
and a gentleman;
- He should bear in mind that what may be lawful and moral for a person
who is not a member of Bar, or for a member of the Bar in his non-
professional capacity may still be improper for an Advocate;
- Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing obligation, an
Advocate shall fearlessly uphold the interests of his client, and in his
conduct conform to the rules hereinafter mentioned both in letter and in
- The rules hereinafter mentioned contain canons of conduct and etiquette
adopted as general guides; yet the specific mention there of shall not be
construed as a denial of existence of other equally imperative though not
Section 1 (of chapter II of Part IV of the Bar Council of India Rules) frames
code of conduct and etiquette of Advocates and prescribes certain duties of an
Advocate of the Court.
In view of the above, following duties have been briefly explained:
Lawyers To Court
Lawyers To Lawyers
- Respecting the court
- Follow appropriate dress code
- Don't take up cases of clients who insist on use of unfair means
- Have a dignified behaviour
Lawyers To Client
- Do not promote unauthorized practice
- Avoid advertisement and solicitation of work
- Appear after consent of fellow advocate
Lawyers To Opponent
- Don't take cases where the lawyer has to be a witness
- Never withdraw service halfway
- Don't refuse a brief
- Give client top priority
- Don't try to tamper with the evidence or suppress it
- Act according to the client's instructions
- Fees adjustment as per liability is a strict no
- Bidding for purchasing property arising of legal proceeding is a strict
- Don't take undue advantage of the client's trust
- Variation in charges depending upon the success of the case is a strict
- Proper accounting of everything is important
- Absolute clarity about things with the client is necessary
- Fulfill the promises made
- No negotiations with party directly
- The bar association has also stated that the license of the lawyers who
do not abide by the code of ethics would be confiscated besides facing trial
and imprisonment if found guilty.
The relation between advocate and his client is fiduciary. It is of confidential
nature requiring the high degree of fidelity and good faith. Justice Sen has
observed that relation between an advocate and his client is purely personal
involving highest personal trust and confidence.
Right Of Lien
In case of R.D. Saxena v. Balram Prasad Sharma
, SC has held that an
advocate cannot claim a lien over the litigation files entrusted to him for his
Code Of Conduct For Judges
An independent and honourable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our
society. A judge should maintain and enforce high standards of conduct and
should personally observe those standards, so that the integrity and
independence of the judiciary may be preserved. The provisions of this Code
should be construed and applied to further that objective.
A judge should respect and comply with the law and should act at all times in a
manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the
A judge should not allow family, social, political, financial, or other
relationships to influencejudicialconduct or judgment.
A judge should not hold membership in any organization that practices invidious
discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin.
A Judge should perform the duties of the office fairly, impartially and
diligently and can engaged in extrajudicial activities that are within
obligations of judicial office.
A judge should be faithful to, and maintain professional competence in, the law
and should not be swayed by partisan interests, public calmer, or fear of
A judge should not act as a leader or hold any office in a political
Should not make speeches for a political organization or candidate, or publicly
endorse or oppose a candidate for public office; solicit funds for, pay an
assessment to, or make a contribution to a political organization or candidate,
or attend or purchase a ticket for a dinner or other event sponsored by a
political organization or candidate.
A judge should resign the judicial office if the judge becomes a candidate in a
primary or general election for any office.
Conflict Of Interest
It is well settled that a solicitor has a fiduciary duty to his or her client.
That duty carries with it two presently relevant responsibilities. The first is
the obligation to avoid any conflict between his duty to his client and his own
interests - he must not make a profit or secure a benefit, at the expense of his
client's expense. The second arises when he endeavours to serve two masters and
requires.... full disclosure to both.
Conflicts of interest have given rise to a number of legal and disciplinary
actions. It is an area that is commonly identified by lawyers as a problem in
legal practice. Conflicts of interest are not all that easy to resolve because
some interests will require that the lawyer not act for the person while other
conflicts may still allow for the lawyer to act for both parties.
It is also an area that requires the balancing of two public interests; namely
the interest in clients having full confidence in their lawyers, including the
protecting of their confidences, and on the other hand, the interest in the
freedom of a lawyer to take instructions and for the client to be represented by
the lawyer of his or her choice.
Also, there is the case that the lawyer has divided loyalties - owing a duty to
the court while at the same time owing a duty to the client. On occasions, these
duties will be in conflict. In these cases, the lawyer is obliged to fulfil his
or her obligations to the court. This is not generally understood by clients, or
by some lawyers who carry the notion of the duty to the client too far and
engage in practices that are unethical and that go to defeat the interests of
Making an allegation of fraud in circumstances where there is no evidence to
support the claim is an example. Other examples include deliberately delaying
proceedings, perhaps in order to force a settlement from the opposing client who
is concerned about increasing costs; or issuing writs without their being any
proper legal or factual foundation.
This is where legal ethics comes in. A commitment to legal ethics involves a
commitment to the introduction of Codes of Ethics or Standards of Professional
Practice. An example is the standards reflected in the International Bar
Association General Principles of Ethics. However, not all jurisdictions have
Professional Codes and not all of those that do give sufficient attention to
their enforcement. In any case, the lawyer who acts in accordance with a
professional code of ethics may still be engaging in unethical practice.
In Chandra Shekhar Soni v. Bar Council of Rajasthan and Ors
who was representing one party in a criminal case switched sides and began
representing the opposite party. It was held by the Supreme Court that …it is
not in accordance with professional etiquette for an advocate while retained by
one party to accept the brief of the other. It is unprofessional to represent
conflicting interests except by express consent given by all concerned after a
full disclosure of the facts…. Counsel's paramount duty is to the client, and
where he finds that there is conflict of interests, he should refrain from doing
anything which would harm any interests of his client.
A lawyer when entrusted with a brief is expected to follow the norms of
professional ethics and try to protect the interests of his client in relation
to whom he occupies a position of trust. The Supreme Court upheld his being
found guilty of malpractice by the Bar Council of India in disciplinary
proceedings, and he was suspended from practise for the period of one year.
The consequences of a conflict of interest situation for the lawyer can be
severe and costly. For example, acting with a conflict of interest can result in
civil liability for professional malpractice as well as disciplinary action.
Some very serious consequences also flow from a proven claim in contract, tort
or equity, including:
- disqualification from representation of one or more clients;
- forfeiture of fees charged; the inability to charge for work in progress
and other time invested;
- embarrassment, inconvenience and aggravation of defending a malpractice
claim or investigation;
- lost time spent on defending a malpractice claim or investigation.
Thus, it is clear that lawyers have to be very careful while dealing with
potential and current clients, so as to ensure that a conflict of interest
situation does not arise. When such a situation does arise, the best plan of
action is to request the new client to seek other representation so that the
interests of the current client are not adversely affected.
However, if a lawyer is already representing two different clients, and a
potential conflict of interest situation arises, he may choose to disclose the
relevant non-confidential aspects of the potential conflict to both of them and
seek their express written consent to his continued representation of them,
provided that it is clear that he can represent the interests of one client
without adversely affecting the interests of the other. If, however, the two
interests are directly conflicting ones, the advocate will have to remove
himself from the matter rather than face action for professional negligence or
malpractice, the consequences of which have already been outlined above.
In India, the counsel's relation with his client is primarily a matter of
contract. The relation is in the nature of agent and principal. The agreement
determines to what extent the counsel can bind his clients by his acts and
statements; what shall be its remuneration, whether he will have a lien on his
client's property, etc. It is evident, however, that as counsel is also conform
to the ethical code prescribed for him by law and usage, he cannot be a mere
agent or mouthpiece of his clients to carry out his biddings.
To conclude the above, the professional ethics are also termed as the duties to
be followed, these are the morals and the basic courtesy which every person in
this profession should know. These are not only the duties to be performed
because the Bar Council has made the rule but these are the basic manners which
one should incorporate within them. These are the duties towards the Court,
Client, Colleague or Opponent.
The performance of the duty by the Advocate defines the determination,
dedication and loyalty towards the profession. The profession of law is
honourable and it is expected from every person who are in this profession to be
honest and work in upright manner. And any deviation in their performance of
duty should be taken seriously. An Advocate in this profession has many
obligations towards court, client, judge, opponent, colleagues, etc.
The Advocate who does not work with sincerity, who does not follow the rules of
conduct is said to have misconduct in his profession. He is guilty of the
misconduct of duty for which he is punished. In order to avoid misconduct, one
should work in proper and appropriate manner not for the sake of getting
punished but for being loyal towards them, their profession.
The fundamental aim of legal ethics is to maintain the honour and dignity of
the law profession, to secure a spirit of friendly co-operation, to establish
honourable and fair dealings
of the counsel with his client, opponent and
witnesses, to establish the spirit of brotherhood in the Bar itself; and to
secure that lawyers discharge their responsibilities to the community
generally. Legal profession is necessarily the keystone of the arch of
government. It has been created by the state for the public good
Consequently, the essence of profession lies in two things:
- Organisation of its members for the performance of their function.
- Maintenance of certain standards, intellectual and ethical, for the
dignity of the profession.
- The Art of Advocacy, edited by Chief Justice Dr. B. Malik, p 325.
- Hamraj L. Chulani v. Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa AIR 1996 SC 1708
- Landmark judgement of V.C. Rangadurai v. D. Gopalan, AIR 1979 SC 281
- AIR 2000 SC 2912