Legal Ethics


The word ethics is derived from the Greek word ‘ethos(character) and from the Latin word ‘mores’ (customs). Together they combine to define how individuals choose to interact with one another. In philosophy, ethics defines what is good for the individual and for society and establishes the nature of duties that people owe to themselves and to one another.

Ethics and legal profession often work hand in hand. Legal profession is a noble profession. The nobility of the legal profession is maintained by the adherence and observance of a set of professional norms by those who adopt this profession. It is known as legal ethics or the ethics of the legal profession. The fundamentals of the legal ethics, may be defined as code of conduct written or unwritten for regulating the behaviour of a practising lawyer towards himself, his client his adversary in law and towards the court.

The object of professional or legal ethics

The legal profession has been created by the state to serve the litigatory needs of the public. Thus, it is not a business it’s a profession. Consequently, there is 3 fundamental basis of legal ethics that gives an insight into the essence of the legal profession:

  1. The organisation of its members in order for the performance of their function; 
  2. Maintain certain standards at both the intellectual and ethical level to preserve the dignity of the profession; 
  3. Pecuniary gains must be subordinate to the client’s interest.

The primary object of ethics in advocacy is to maintain the dignity and integrity of the legal profession. Legal ethics ensure that the legal fraternity serves the society honestly and present each case in the most formal way possible so that the litigants have faith on not only their legal representative or lawyer but also on the justice system. Not only the lawyer but also the judge needs to have a sense and understanding of legal ethics in order to maintain the functionality of Indian Courts. One of the fundamental aims of legal ethics is to seek a spirit of friendly cooperation amongst the bar, bench and the clients. Standards of ethics exist between the lawyer and his client, opponent and the witness being questioned and of course between the Judge and the lawyer.


1.Act in a dignified manner

2. Respect the court

3. Not communicate in private

4. Refuse to act in an illegal manner towards the opposition

5.Refuse to represent clients who insist on unfair means

6. Appear in proper dress code Refuse to appear in front of relations

7. Not to wear bands or gowns in public places

8.Not represent establishments of which he is a member

9. Not appear in matters of pecuniary interest

10.Not stand as surety for client

Some topics covered in legal ethics include attorney-client privilege, legal billing, disclosures which lawyers are obligated to make, professional and personal relationships with other members of the legal profession, relationships with jurors, situations in which lawyers and judges must refused from taking up a case, ethical conflicts which can arise in the law, and situations in which people can offer legal advice. In many nations, legal ethics also includes mandates to perform volunteer service, or a strong stress on performing pro bono work.

Indian lawyers have followed this great tradition. The revolutionaries in Bengal during British rule were defended by our lawyers, the Indian communists were defended in the Meerut conspiracy case, Razakars of Hyderabad were defended by our lawyers, Sheikh Abdulah and his co-accused were defended by them, and so were some of the alleged assassins of Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi. In recent times, Dr. Binayak Sen has been defended. No Indian lawyer of repute has ever shirked responsibility on the ground that it will make him unpopular or that it is personally dangerous for him to do so. It was in this great tradition that the eminent Bombay High Court lawyer Bhulabhai Desai defended the accused in the I.N.A. trials in the Red Fort at Delhi (November 1945 – May 1946).


The nature of the legal ethics reveals that it is an absolute mandate however the language of the Code (under Advocate Act, 1961) makes it evident that advocates owe a duty towards the Bar, bench, their clients along with opposing counsels at the court. The whole point of having codified legal ethics is to mandate advocates to maintain the dignity of the court. Also, it prevents the exploitation of clients. The need for legal ethics was also briefly explained along with rules that need to be followed by advocates. The basic difference between professional ethics and professional conduct is that the former is a moral obligation while the latter is a legal or statutory obligation.

Another important aspect captured was whether codified professional ethics is making any difference or not? The implications of the code were explained and why it still remains relatively ineffective due to the lack of understanding of ethics before one starts practising in the profession. Mere codification of professional ethics will not fulfil the legislative intent behind the Advocates Act, 1961 and the Bar Council Rules until the traditional method of legal education is slightly changed. The Code cannot bring about a sense of ethics unless it is imparted to the law students at the very earliest.

In the changing world of legal practice, a high standard of ethics and professional conduct is the only tool that can ensure a stimulant justice system and it would also restore the faith of clients on it. Considering the lawyer-client relationship is a fiduciary one, a breach of confidentiality can be punished. 

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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