Justice delivery relies on ethical conduct by lawyers
With reports of some lawyers embezzling millions of Kwachas of their clients and being dragged to disciplinary hearing and even the courts for their misdeeds, the public views and negative comments that some lawyers are unethical and tarnish the image of the legal profession, are in order.
Besides cases of embezzling their clients' money, a number of people have also problems with the manipulation of the billing system by some unethical lawyers, who allegedly inflate legal fees just to make quick bucks.
While some reputable lawyers have become market savvy and offer alternative billing arrangements, which provide value for money and thereby creating long term relationships with their clients, others still take pride in exploiting their clients.
We, therefore, find merit in the remarks made by both Lands Minister Henry Phoya and Malawi Law Society president John Gift Mwakhwawa that time is ripe that lawyers should be ethical.
If the concept of a just society was not just a myth, lawyers who engage in unethical practices would have been disbarred long time ago and drummed right out of the profession. Unfortunately, this cannot happen easily because just as there is a market for competent, ethical legal practitioners, there is also a market for the mercenary lawyers who spoil the name of the profession.
The most disappointing thing is the difficulties that victimised clients face to seek justice when unethical lawyers have cheated them. Most complaints are hardly investigated. The few that are investigated are dismissed on technicalities, while some just lead to a mere slap on the wrist in the form of a private admonition or a closed-door reprimand.
Phoya is right to preach about the importance of adhering to ethics. Since the legal system affects almost every person in society and lawyers being the backbone of our justice and legal system, adherence to ethics is of paramount importance.
Lawyers should refrain from deceiving, exploiting, despoiling and engaging in unethical conducts in the name of practising the rules of the game. The dignity of the legal profession and the craving to protect the common good of the society should be reason enough for the pursuit of professional responsibility and ethical conduct amongst all practising lawyers.
We believe the crucial responsibility of the lawyer is that of upholding the rule of law and persuading their clients and others to follow suit. That responsibility can be fully attainable if legal practitioners respect their ethics.