OPINION: What does it take to be a Good Lawyer?
Author(s): Harpreet SandhuToday the lawyers and the Bar associations play a key role in the dispensation of justice around the globe the legal profession has always been held in high esteem as its members have played an enviable role...
Today the lawyers and the Bar associations play a key role in the dispensation of justice around the globe the legal profession has always been held in high esteem as its members have played an enviable role in public life. There is no other profession in which moral character is so exacting. Being in constant public gaze, they cannot afford to bury mistakes. Hence, the need for introspection and corrective measures on their part if the prestige and glory of the profession is to be maintained. Other institutions can afford to neglect their duties, the Lawyers and courts cannot. We cannot blame the rottenness of politics or the spoiled system and absolve ourselves of the responsibilities. The need of the hour is fair and quick dispensation of justice. Let us, together, rise to the occasion and rekindle the faith of the desolate litigants in judicial system by doing our bit. It is in our collective dynamism only that lies a hope for revamping of the system on more imaginative lines by cutting short the procedural delays and by promoting alternative methods of dispute resolution. Let us be more useful, responsible, compassionate and be actually there, not merely exist, for the seekers of justice. It should be our common endeavour to see that the flame of faith in the judicial system does not flicker away. Rather, let us resolve to strengthen this faith. And this resolve must be firmer, spirit the bolder and courage the greater. Let us keep trying and never give up; remember, it is always the last key that open the lock.
We as advocates are the professional pleaders for the cause of others. The denotative value of the word “advocate” lies in its Latin root “advocare” meaning call to one’s aid. Today a lawyer in India practices under a system of law and requires to alleviate rather than exacerbate the ruin and misfortune of his clients, as he bears significant responsibility for ensuring that public faith in the legal system is earned and maintained and he is duty bound by professional conduct. The inculcation of high professional standards and ethical conduct in lawyers need to be a priority and lawyer needs to behave ethically rather than to be tied to the “practice as vocation” ideal, as lawyer holds a significant position within our country and happens to be an essential part of the legal system.
Most importantly, every good lawyer needs to be committed to a firm set of ethics. The years he spends in Law College and later working as a lawyer in the different courts, he attains a good grounding in both substantive and procedural law. I myself being a practicing lawyer, feel that there is one area that has not received sufficient emphasis, and that is education on legal ethics. To lawyers, their clients entrust their problems, their reputations, their properties and, on occasion, even their lives. They expect from their lawyers to fight for justice on their behalf, although he cannot promise them that the case will turn out the way they want, the one promise that he can assure them is to deliver according to the trust and confidence that they place on him. I feel that successful practice of law requires the continual exercise of good judgment and willingness to make a conscious commitment to fairness and integrity is all that a lawyer does and he should strive always to be a person of word, and if he succeeds in this endeavor, his opponents and the judges he appears before will trust what he says as being truthful.”
Lawyer have to be imbibed with a deep sense of morality and should ingrain in abiding sense of ethical standards in his daily case list, he can win the trust of his clients and the respect of his peers and the Court as true success as a professional. The law is not just an ordinary occupation. It is a vocation committed to justice. Having worked so hard for the privilege to be a part of this noble profession, every lawyer should strive to epitomise the very best that the law stands for, which can be described in seven ways:
Firstly, every lawyer should keep in mind that overriding duty is to uphold the integrity of the legal system, protect its interests and promote its objective and should never forget that he is a member of and a part of the legal system. So, he must protect its interests and promote its objectives.
Secondly, every lawyer should strive to be honest, competent and diligent, and give his undivided loyalty to clients as they are anxious and confused when they first seek legal counsel - they do not know what their rights are or how litigation is conducted. They can only rely on their lawyers to advise them and to protect their interests as infact lawyer’s office is the first remedy for the client.
Thirdly, every lawyer in his dealings with other professional colleagues, must always accord proper respect and courtesy due to them as fellow colleagues.
Fourthly, every lawyer should be honest, fair and courteous towards every person he comes across in the course of his legal work, whether the person is a party to a case or a member of the public. He should remember that his actions, large or small, form a direct reflection on the standing of the legal system.
Fifth, every lawyer must exercise effort to keep abreast of the latest legal developments in his respective area of practice.
Sixthly, every lawyer needs to have a successful practice of law; he requires the continual exercise of good judgment and willingness to make a conscious commitment to fairness and integrity in their respective case work.
Seventhly, every lawyer needs to have an overriding duty to uphold the integrity of the legal system, protect its interests and promote its objective. It should be obligatory for every lawyer in our country to provide suggestions and advice to the commons regarding their fundamental rights. Every lawyer must ensure that their conduct in the course of litigation meets the aims of justice and upholds the integrity of the judicial system. It will not always be easy to follow these principles amidst the day-to-day pressures that lawyers face during legal practice. But lawyers must put in an extra effort to live by these principles; otherwise they tarnish not only their own reputations, but the integrity of the profession as a whole.
Accordingly, law and justice are rooted in ethics and the ethical dimensions of the lawyer’s role correspond to his responsibility towards the State also. High ethical standards are necessary to sustain the public esteem in this other-directed role of lawyers. Those lawyers, who regard the practice of law as a calling, are more likely, by virtue of their social conscience or upbringing, to have an innate sense of what is fair, just and equitable. It seems to be an awakening towards making better genuine lawyers in coming times, with Bar Council of India making it mandatory to pass an entry - level examination to be eligible for legal practice after attaining law degree, which is equally fair as this way only genuine and deserving law graduates will hold advocates practicing license, by virtue of their hard work in the legal education, thus ensuring exit to the so called ‘privileged’ and ‘recommended’ candidates, supporting it to be an appropriate move even our Law Minister has rightly initiated another appropriate step ensuring further probity and efficiency in the judicial system, ensuring undertaking from the respective judges during oath ceremony, that they will not hold the court where any of their kith and kin’s are practicing lawyers. Even recently India's Prime Minister has urged that we need to improve, upgrade and promote legal system in our country, we need professionally managed law schools and law universities and review the reforms in the ongoing legal education system which are presently lacking in working standards of legal education.
Lastly, lawyer being an “Officer of the Court” should uphold the statutory responsibility to assist in the administration of justice, maintain the rule of law and its related interests, his behaviour impacts on the standing of the legal system and, more specifically, the Judiciary’s capacity to dispense justice and to be a good lawyer s/he has to have patience, which is a facet of what is called judicial temperament, he must not think that s/he knows everything and s/he must be able to convince the court with his lawful arguments.
(The author is Practicing Advocate & Former Additional Advocate General, Punjab)