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Lawyers in every area of practice are subject to the same rules governing professional conduct. As bearers of the cross of the world’s noble profession, we are expected to know these rules and to comply with them, and if we become the subject of an ethical investigation, grievance or complaint, the impact is usually weighty. There are countless ways for a lawyer to get in ethical trouble, but perhaps only a dozen different acts or omissions constitute 98% of the charges actually filed.
Eduardo Juan Couture a popular Uruguayan jurist whose works are fundamental to the teaching of procedural law in Latin America was said to be timeless and invaluable to the Law, lawyers, and society. Yet, it may also apply to other professions or the common man.
Out there, there are the 10 summarised laws given by Couture which include:
Study, Think, Work, Fight, Patience and Love For The Profession amongst Others.
However, there are still some key commandments in Law that should not be overlooked. They include:
Planning can be defined as “thinking in advance what is to be done, when it is to be done, how it is to be done and by whom it should be done”. In simple words we can say, planning bridges the gap between where we are standing today and where we want to reach.
Cambridge defines this as the action of completing something.
Set Agendas – Work with a Diary
This is synonymous with planning. If possible a few days before meeting with your client, put in writing the facts, what you want to accomplish, and your questions. This makes the meeting more productive. When you schedule meetings or book appointments, capture them on paper. Always have the client in mind.
Be Up Front About Fees.
Discuss billing arrangements upfront. Review the bills and the relationship on a periodic basis. You may want to insist on monthly bills with detailed descriptions to see what has been done. This will create a tighter feedback loop between the work done and the costs incurred. If there are unexpectedly high bills you can find out why – perhaps the lawyer or his or her junior lawyers were not efficient or perhaps you weren’t efficient. Find out why the fees were higher than expected and fix the situation.
Do not get intimate or have sexual relations with your client.
It speaks for itself.
Thou shalt not breach confidentiality of communications with your client
Attorney-client confidentiality is vital in order for you and your client to communicate freely. This confidentiality includes not only your discussions with your client, but everything relating to their representation—regardless of the source. Violating this without informed consent from your client can lead to serious penalties. The only exception is a breach of confidentiality regarding a potential crime, “reasonably believed to likely result in death of, or substantial bodily harm to, an individual.”
Thou shalt not arrive in court late, drunk, or unprepared.
You would think that appearing in court drunk would be extraordinarily rare, but it does occur—even in murder trials.
Clients rely on you to be at your optimum best—timely, capable, and prepared. Appearing in court visibly drunk is a violation of your ethical responsibility to act in your clients’ best interest.
Even if your bad behavior is a lesser offense, such as running late or not having reviewed the case materials, your clients deserve better. Unprofessional behavior puts them at unnecessary risk, and wastes valuable time and money.
Never ever solicit new clients, in-person.
Soliciting new clients, either face to face or over the phone, is prohibited, unless you have a prior relationship—either personal or professional. Solicitations to former or present clients in the discharge of professional duties, however, is not prohibited.
Thou shalt not submit briefing without cite-checking.
Lawyers are known for their manner of speech. It is important that excitement or pride regarding your argument should not get in the way of accuracy. Being too focused on your own case without double-checking the cases that support it can make you look foolish and unprofessional. Be sure to include time for review.
- Remember to format, stick to one font, and page-limit requirements for all submissions.
- Carefully check all case law, statutes, exhibits, and other references in your brief before submitting.
- Make sure your citation formatting is consistent.
- Check any quotations for typos.
- Always have a second set of eyes. An accurate brief is best for both your clients and your practice.
Finally, a lawyer must implore God for help in his defense, because God is the first protector of justice.