Duties of lawyer and government's responsibility
A modern just society needs a legal profession which adopts high standards of integrity and professionalism. Advocates and those who work in them serve both clients and society. In serving society, Advocates uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice. In serving clients, Advocate's work in partnership with the client making the client's matters his first concern. The following core duties set the standards which will meet the needs of both clients and society. The core duties apply to all practising, non-practising and employed advocates in Bangladesh.
Integrity: Personal integrity is central to advocates' role as they are always the client's trusted adviser and they must characterise their professional dealings with clients, the Court, other lawyers and the public.
Independence: "Independence" means Advocate's own independence, and not merely his ability to give independent advice to a client. Example: client instructs him to move his case at politically motivated bench; if he does so then his professional independence may be at risk.
Best interests of clients: Advocate must always act in good faith and do his best for each of his clients. Most importantly, he must observe: duty of confidentiality to the client, his obligations with regard to conflicts of interests, and his obligation not to use his position to take unfair advantage of the client.
Standard of service: Advocate must provide a good standard of client care and of work, including the exercise of competence, skill and diligence. He does not take any brief if he feels that he is not competent in the area of law or he does not have enough time to deliver services.
Public confidence: Members of the public must be able to place their trust in Advocate. Any behaviour within or outside his professional practice which undermines this trust, ultimately, damages not only him but the ability of the legal profession as a whole to serve society.
Justice and the rule of law: All Advocates have obligations not only to their clients but also to the Courts with whom they have dealings on their clients' behalf, in particular, must not deceive or mislead the Courts, must not construct facts supporting their client's case or draft any documents relating to any proceedings containing any contention which they do not consider to be properly arguable; they must comply with any Court order requiring him to take, or refrain from taking, a particular course of action, must not become in contempt of court, must not refuse to act as an advocate for any person on the grounds that the nature of the case is objectionable to them.
All quality Advocates have been maintaining above core duties as they have accepted legal profession as a noble profession and a good number of lawyers is willing to go the bench in future. Unfortunately, the rest are unwilling to maintain these core duties, in particular, their integrity and dignity, independence and standard of service due to their political motivation or recklessly they ignore the code of conduct, as a result, members of the public mistrust whole legal profession. The quality Advocates cannot allow such unprofessional conduct and their observations underline the following reasons:
i. During the last two and half decades malpractice gradually developed within the legal profession particularly in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, when government appointed some politically motivated lawyer and judges of the lower judiciary as a judge of the High Court division.
ii. The politically motivated advocates have, so far, been standing in the election of the executive committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association spoiling the reputation of the Bar.
The above two reasons are based on the opinion of impartial senior lawyers and senior judges of the Supreme Court. These reasons actually cause to undermine legal profession as a whole as bench and bar are gradually losing its impartialism, independence and integrity, which are really undesirable. The Chairman of the Bangladesh Bar Council accepted in electronic media on 14 June 2011 that the Supreme Court Bar Association was being used for political purpose. Hence, since 1985 to to-date, most of the fresh Advocates have been realising that if they are not in good book of a political party, he may not become a good lawyer or judges of the High Court Division or enter into Attorney General Office. As a result, they have no options but to support a candidate who is politically motivated.
It is the Government's responsibility to restore public trust on the legal profession in a position as it was before 1985. In order to save or make the quality lawyers for the next generation, the government must to consider introduction of separate regulatory body and its executive members must be appointed from lawyers and lay persons from the public so that independent regularity body can control standard of lawyers. If such malpractices are allowed to continue our legal profession not only will lose public confidence in country but also international recognisition and eventually our advocates would find it difficult to enter into international legal practice as they have been enjoying that privileges in England since 1999.
The writer is an Advocate, Bangladesh Supreme Court.