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The Ethics and Morality of Legal Profession

“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice”[1]

Martin Luther King

This paper discusses about Legal Profession, how it plays the important role in administration of justice. It talks about the legal practitioners, their position in Ancient India and how they contributed for the country in the best possible way with high morals. Morals play the most important role for becoming a lawyer successful.[2] It also discusses the ethics of lawyers, what are their duties towards court, client, opponents and colleagues. Advocates Act, 1961 provides for Bar Council Rules for the proper conduct of the Advocates and they are bind by these duties. In case they do not follow, then there is remedy in the form of punishment which has been discussed with the help of case laws.[3]

The Legal Profession plays an important role in the administration of Justice. This is the only profession, where genuine practitioners are glorified with the title “ Learned”, which denotes the possession of skills not only in Law, but also in other areas and having deep knowledge in all fields. The word “learned” has such a significant quality, which is not given to any other professional. In India, leaders, namely, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, etc., who contributed much to our Nation’s independence, are learned persons in Law and were the prime cause for the attainment of independence and development of our nation.[4] The Lawyers are considered to be the center 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 1 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.’[5]

The Bar is a public institution and is under legal obligation to impart wholehearted cooperation for the development of law. History has said with grace and appreciation that how the eminent lawyers after independence started making law a legal science. When we talk about lawyers in pre-independence era, last part of 18 th century the eminent lawyers helped in the development of enacted laws as well as customary laws. These lawyers were the one who had their morals and worked on the principle of ethics. The lawyers who were eminent in their own field got intrinsically involved in freedom struggle where their reasoning, rationality and logical factors helped them to solve many acute problems. Many of them played very important role in the formation and shaping of our constitution which eventually turned out to be one of the best constitutions of the world. One of the great examples of such personality is the Father of the Nation, Gandhiji, who was a lawyer. He started his practice in India and went to South Africa. It is noteworthy to state that Gandhiji was an excellent draftsman and his representations to the authorities used to be very logical, straight, unambiguous, and succinct and based on 6 natural and ethical legal paradigm. He believed in truth while practicing as lawyer and acted as a conciliator. In his autobiography “My Experiments With Truth” he has narrated how he required a prosperous businessman to confess his guilt and after the Court sentenced him, to keep judgment in a frame for posterity to see and realize.[6]

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar started practice at Bombay in 1924 and at the same time started his career as a social worker, writer, politician and socialist. His image as a jurist gained widespread recognition and emerged as the leader of depressed class. He was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee which framed the Constitution of India.[7]

Gandhiji laid emphasis on moral fabric of the society, preached religious pluralism, anticipated ecological crisis of our time, accentuated on disciplined life, laid stress on personal efforts to rise in life and postulated prescriptions for constructive work. While talking about this brand of lawyers it is worth noting that Bhulabhai Desai had played a main role in the INA trial where his main contention was that a member of the subject country has a right to wage war for securing the freedom.[8]

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 fulfill 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.[9] “ 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.[10] 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.[11]

The scope of legal ethics is beyond the treatise of evidence or witnesses to be presented before the court. In examining these witnesses the advocate should not forget that he is not mere the counsel of the client but also the officer of the court. In this way there are some of the duties thereinafter which the advocate should follow, like, professional courtesy, co-operation, equal consideration to all members of the profession, encourage junior brethren, should stand up for its dignity and privileges whenever there is occasion for it, he should expose corrupt or dishonest conduct in the profession.[12] In the words of Chief Justice Marshall has observed; “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 between the Bench and the Bar in the promotion of highest standards of justice, to establish honourable and fair dealings of the counsel with his client opponent and witnesses; to establish a spirit of brotherhood in the Bar itself ; and to secure that lawyers discharge their responsibilities to the community generally.”[13]

Attorney ethics describe a set of state codes and rules the regulates the conduct of lawyers. These codes ensure lawyers follow the law, pursue justice, and zealously advocate their client’s best interests.Every state is responsible for drafting their own set of codes of professional responsibility governing attorney ethics. The American Bar Association developed the Model Rules of Professional Responsibility to act a guideline for ethical conduct and help resolve moral and ethical dilemmas.[14]

While this code is not binding, it does comprehensively lay out guidelines for state bar associations – or even attorneys who find an unclear area of the codes in their state – to make sense of their ethical and moral choices. The concepts that may be particularly relevant to clients are:


  1. A lawyer should preserve the confidences of a client.

  2. This means that the lawyer can never use a client’s confidence or secret to his personal advantage or for personal gain. Typically, a lawyer can only divulge a client’s confidence with the client’s consent and only after the lawyer gives full disclosure as to the legal consequences of that disclosure.

  3. In limited some instances, a lawyer can reveal confidences if such confidence is a client’s intent is a crime that may cause death or serious injury.

Professional Judgement

  1. A lawyer should exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of a client.

  2. A lawyer cannot accept employment from a client when there is a conflict of interest.

  3. Furthermore, a lawyer is to refrain from acquiring a financial interest (other than legal fees) in the cases.

  4. Additionally, a lawyer should generally refrain from entering into business agreements with a client if those business interests differ.[15]


  1. A lawyer must represent a client competently.

  2. If a lawyer is not competent to handle a legal matter, that lawyer is generally required to become competent, either by consulting with another lawyer or conducting adequate research.

  3. Furthermore, a lawyer should not handle a legal matter without adequate preparation under the circumstances.

  4. Finally, a lawyer is not allowed to neglect a case that has been entrusted to him.

Zealous Representation

  1. A lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law.

  2. However, in cases where a client’s conduct could arguably be illegal, a lawyer may refuse aid or participate in such conduct.

  3. Furthermore, a lawyer may not assert a position, file a suit, delay trial, or take actions on behalf of a client, particularly when such actions are undertaken merely to harass or maliciously injure another individual.

  4. A lawyer cannot knowingly use perjured testimony or false evidence.

  5. A lawyer cannot knowingly assert false statements of law or fact.

  6. A lawyer cannot preserve or create evidence which the lawyer knows is false.

  7. A lawyer cannot assist his client in conduct the lawyer knows to be illegal or fraudulent.

  8. Furthermore, if a lawyer receives information that a client has conducted fraud on a person or tribunal, the lawyer must ask the client to rectify the fraud. If the client is unable and unwilling, the lawyer must reveal..

  9. Zealous representation includes upholding a fiduciary duty, when applicable and necessary.[16]



[1] Quotes/given-by-martin-luther-king: accessed on May 28th, 2020

[2] accessed on May 28th , 2020

[3] accessed on May 28th , 2020

[4] accessed on May 28th , 2020

[5] accessed on May 28th , 2020

[6]’s/legal/paradigm/: accessed on May 29th , 2020

[7] accessed on May 29th , 2020

[8] accessed on May 29th , 2020

[9] accessed on ,May 30th , 2020

[10] accessed on May 30th , 2020

[11] accessed on May 30th , 2020

[12] accessed on May 31st , 2020

[13] accessed on May 31st , 2020

[14] accessed on May 31st , 2020

[15] accessed on June 1st , 2020

[16] accessed on June 1st , 2020

Author Details: Ayush Upmanyu and Jahnvi Agnihotri (Galgotias School of Law, Galgotias University)

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