Ethics in the Legal Profession
A nasty joke, on the net, asked the question: ‘What is the difference between a lawyer and a leech?’ Said it had something to do with Draculan haemel-imbibing practices. Two out of three, maybe 99 out of 100, will applaud. One can almost hear sighs of happiness. Is it true? Are lawyers a law unto themselves? Is there is no code of conduct? And, if so, can it be enforced? Please refer to a statute called The Advocates Act, 1961. It is free and on the net.
 
Knowledge of the law will suffice, to avoid outright confrontation, if not acrimony. We try and bring you such applications of the law. 
 
Ten years ago, freshly minted, we had a lawyer as a client in a crime matter, of the short-fuse, impatient type. The accused were octogenarians, stationed far away. Our man had wanted them brought to Mumbai. The foursome, reduced to a trio following one natural departure, had resisted the move. We now entered the fray, only to be confronted by a fearsome defence attorney. We had few cards to play.
 
The opposing lawyer had represented our client previously. We protested at his presence in this case. The lawyer countered that this was a different matter. We submitted that the parties were the same and so was the cause, rather similar.
 
You be the judge. Whom would you favour, us or the other lawyer?
 
The lawyer put forward two more appeals. One, that he would not get his fees and, two, his replacement would be tougher than he. Scare tactics were but water on a duck’s back. We continued to resist; especially when it came to our knowledge that the new, proposed advocate had previously played a counsellor’s role. 
 
You be the judge.
 
Though the matter was resolved peacefully, we had made a point. A lawyer, having represented a person, cannot then plead for the opponent. That is the law. Whatever a client says to his advocate is privileged. It cannot be used to the detriment of his client. Point taken; but our matter did not end there, as we will see later.
 
The question that usually arises when lawyers are appointed after being on the other side; but in new matters involving the same litigants. Ethically, we personally believe that it must be avoided. When the stakes are high, fees astronomical, and the future rosy with well-heeled clients, elasticity becomes the key. A little bending here, a curvature there, all excuses, not explanations, may seek justification. The dividing line, between the legally correct and the morally justified, becomes blurred.
 
The law is more strict for judges; rightly so. As an advocate, he may have litigated, or represented, a person. As a judge he cannot take up that person’s matters. He ‘recuses’ himself. This applies not only to professional practice, but extends to family relations, even friendships. If one finds any sort of ‘bonding’, he may ask for another bench. Not on some shaky advice, like the judge not being to your advocate’s liking. Avoid ill-founded collision with the bench. If a judge is assigned a matter, he has the jurisdiction and, more importantly, he must exercise it. We are not there to compare ‘janma-patrikas’. 
 
In our matter, the accused appointed a new counsel. He failed to turn up and we got the ‘tareek-pe-tareek’ treatment and a lot of flak from our horse-mounted client, wanting full gallop. After three months and adjournments, we put our foot down. The opposition’s junior lawyer was warned to produce the counsel ‘within one hour’. He did.
 
With the counsel came the first, now recused, advocate, advising him at every instance. Wrong move. No lawyer can argue with incessant prompting. We picked on just one point, crucial, and won the day, forcing the other side to settle. Yet, after all these years, one question remains unanswered. Was it correct on their part? 
 
You be the judge. And let us know.
Comments
Bapoo Malcolm
6 years ago
Thanks for all the mail. First, Mr., Ms. or whatever Simple Indian, do not hide behind pseudonyms. See no reason to continue answering you. If you have lost a case and then have a beef, an axe to grind, ask yourself, honestly, whether your case was so bad that you deserved to lose .

Mr. Asit Patel, you may be, or rather right spot-on, when you talk of boorish behaviour. That is the subject of my next article, dealing with both Indian and US courts. Unfortunately, I have a fractured hand, and typing is slow. But possible thanks to disability programmes!
Arunkumar A Vijayan
Replied to Bapoo Malcolm comment 6 years ago
Thanks for considering the user's request ...looking forward to the next article ...Get well soon..
Bapoo Malcolm
Replied to Arunkumar A Vijayan comment 6 years ago
May I have your e mail address? <[email protected]>
Arunkumar A Vijayan
Replied to Bapoo Malcolm comment 6 years ago
Mehernosh Dordi
6 years ago
Very informative and interesting.
Asit Patel
6 years ago
Many lawyers are goons, this is a known fact. What I would have appreciated in the article is how to counter this behaviour. Once the file is with a lawyer, it's difficult to engage them - even for fairness and rrasonability.
Simple Indian
6 years ago
After years of observing Courts functioning (or rather, lack of it) I often felt that the adage "law is an ass....." holds true quite often. Hence, what is lawfully right may not be morally right as well, and vice versa. In fact, many laws violate the basic principle of natural justice, which the SC often quotes in its judgements. There are many contradictions in laws and clever lawyers know how to exploit these loopholes. I also feel such "loopholes" are deliberately left by legislators, just in case they themselves were to be booked under the law passed by them. For instance, as an under-trial, one can't vote in elections, but can stand for elections of even MLA or MP. So, basically the law implies that as a potential lawbreaker one can BECOME a lawmaker, but can't CHOOSE a lawmaker. This is both bizarre and against ethics and principle of natural justice. There are many such bizarre provisions in our laws which are exploited by our politicians/lawmakers.
Bapoo Malcolm
6 years ago
Wow! There must be a decent lawyer lurking somewhere. Shall we try finding him, or her? Let's start by looking under the carpet.
Ann India
6 years ago
Lawyers always try to make money off both parties, it's a sad fact but known to all.
Ann India
6 years ago
Lawyers always try to make money off both parties, it's a sad fact but known to all.
Ann India
6 years ago
You will not believe the personal experiences I've had. One lawyer even pocketed my court fee and never filed the suit he was fooling me for months.
Arunkumar A Vijayan
6 years ago
On the subject of lawyers...I am shocked at the behaviour of lawyers here in Kerala...acting like goondas and not allowing journalists to even the courts even after strict direction from higher courts!!!
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