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Standard of Professional Ethics for Lawyers

Authored by - Ms. Riya Soni

Designation - Student, Bennett University


Professional Ethics is defined as a code of conduct that regulates a professional’s behaviour towards their work. In a lawyer’s scenario, the display of professional ethics is seen in regard to conduct towards his/her work, client, opposing counsel, and the court. It is important for Advocates to have appropriate professional conduct because they stand in conjunction with officers in the Court and play a crucial role in justice delivery. Primarily, dealing with integrity and courtesy is central to all professions. Similarly, it is essential for the legal fraternity to conduct themselves with integrity by providing appropriate assistance to the court and promote citizen’s confidence in the judiciary. At the same, legal professionals also owe a duty of being courteous with other members of the same profession.


The directives on the Standard of professional ethics are mentioned in the Bar Council of India (BCI) Rules. Establishment of BCI is under the Advocates Act, 1961. According to Section 7(1)(b) the Council is duty-bound to lay Standards of professional etiquette for Advocates. The Rules on professional standards are mentioned in Chapter II, Part VI of the Bar Council of India Rules. Primarily, the advocate’s duty towards the court is connected to morals and values. It is important for an advocate to act in a dignified manner during the hearing. He/She has to also pay importance respecting the court and presiding judicial officer. It is also illegal for the advocate to communicate to the judicial officer in private through unlawful means like coercion or bribery. An advocate shall at all times refuse to act in an illegal means towards the opposition or assist clients who insist on any unfair means of practice. Unfair means of practice includes scandalously damaging the reputation of the counsels on false grounds during the court hearing. The advocates are barred from any unlawful means of legal representation i.e. representing establishments of which he/she is a member, appearing in matters with pecuniary interest, and standing as surety for the clients.

Secondly, lawyers are duty-bound towards their clients, colleagues, and opposing counsel as well. The advocates are barred to withdraw the service without an appropriate reason. That also includes issuing continuance of all valid promises made to the opposing counsel. Also, they are not allowed to appear before the court as a witness in matters. When it comes to fulfilment of the client’s objectives by all moral means, the advocates shall not manipulate any evidence, which may prove accused party’s innocence. They are also not allowed to reveal any internal communication made by the client. When it comes to pecuniary matters, the advocates are not permitted to charge services according to the success of the subject matter. The legal professionals are subjected to keep proper accounts of received money from clients and provide the receipt of the same to their clients. It is important for the lawyers to not negotiate or adjust fees once the fee is fixed pertaining to their liability to the client. It is also necessary for the advocates to undergo tax norms and accept fee according to it. Most importantly, the Supreme Court has accentuated the concept of ‘professional misconduct’ in Sambhu Ram Yadav v. Hanuman Das Khatry[1], where the advocate was accused of accepting bribes in order in the name of influencing the judge to obtain a suitable order for the case. The Disciplinary Committee held that the advocate was guilty of professional misconduct incoherence to standards of professional ethics pertaining to pecuniary matters. Additionally, the advocates have a responsibility to the colleagues that he/she will bar from soliciting or advertising work both directly and indirectly. Another example of professional misconduct is to appear in cases when a memo has been already filed by an advocate, except when there is consent by the party or their lawyer.

Codified professional ethics are a medium of social control and important for developing higher standards of conduct. Section 35 of the Advocates Act, 1961 prescribes the procedure undertaken when a person is found guilty of professional misconduct. In such circumstances, the complaint is referred to a disciplinary committee of the State Bar Council. In the leading judgment of Noratanman Chaurasia v. M.R. Murali [2], the respondent was subject to assault and battery on the complainant in regard to coercion with the discontinuance of the case. The Supreme Court held that “ a lawyer is duty-bound to observe the norms of behaviour expected out of him, these aspects make him/her worthy of the confidence and trust of the society in him/her as an officer of the Court.” It was furthered in the case that professional misconduct takes into account breach of discipline and a violation of a rule of a standard of behaviour. Usually being heard by the disciplinary committee the complaint is either dismissed or otherwise the advocate can be subject to suspension, reprimand, removal of his/her name from the State roll of advocates.

The role of professionals especially in medical, legal, and academic streams is of great importance. The problem with ethics persists in the increasing control of the economy, which amounts to a great threat to legal professionalism. We often witness legal professionals more like businessmen than ever before. Interestingly, we evidence a similar scenario in the medical stream. For instance, in reality, we witness a close relationship between lawyers and the judiciary these days. The case is similar between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.[3] The central threat between the two is the objective of these professionals. It is very evident that money has become a defining factor in dialogue and discourse between lawyers and other professionals. The embodiment of values like fairness and equality is not evident in the professionals who have just graduated. As we know, Bar and the Bench form a dynamic partnership geared towards justice administration and delivery. Therefore as the officers of the court lawyers are duty-bound to uphold the dignity and decorum of the court.

[1]AIR 2001 SC 2509 [2] Noratanman Chaurasia vs. M.R. Murli (2004) 5 SCC 689 [3] Harvard Gazette. 2020. Doctors And Lawyers And Ethics, Oh My!. Available at: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2001/10/doctors-and-lawyers-and-ethics-oh-my/

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