Legal duties of advocates

Today I’m going to talk about the duties/role of advocates. Here you will learn;

  • Advocate duty to the court
  • Advocate duty to the client (fiduciary duty)
  • Advocate duty to his opponent
  • Advocate duty to his profession
  • Advocate duty to the general public
  • Advocate duty to himself

Being an advocate might not be easy for those who are not devoted enough.

Advocate is a career that involves a lot of crucial duties which when breached, may attract strong disciplinary actions.

To a normal person, an advocate may be a person who represents people before court, a person who prepares and attest legal documents, or a person who is very busy and complicated but this is not enough.

Here, the role of advocates in a broader sense will be covered.

duties of advocates

Duties of Advocates

Generally, the duties of advocates are classified into six-folds;

  1. Advocate duty to the court
  2. Advocate duty to the client
  3. Advocate duty to his opponent
  4.  Advocate duty to his profession
  5. Advocate duty to the general public
  6. Advocate duty to himself

Advocate Duty to Court

This is one of the very important duties of the advocate in the administration of justice and the legal system at large.  To court, an advocate is supposed to discharge the following duties;

  1. To assist the court to reach a proper decision. Here an advocate is required to conduct a huge research concern the case at hand and also to avail to court, every documents and evidence to enable the court to reach its decision.
  2. Not to mislead the court by intentionally giving false information.
  3. Respect. Here advocate is supposed to appear before a court with proper attire, respect all court personnel and court sessions, be on time, speak a proper language, and conduct himself in high esteem.

Advocate Duty to Client

Generally, the lawyer-client relationship is fiduciary in nature.  The expression ‘fiduciary duty’ is properly confined to those duties which require extreme care and acting in the best interest of another.  Breach of fiduciary duty attracts legal consequences.

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The advocate duties to the client include;


This is a primary duty and it is one of the most delicate obligations a lawyer has to observe. The advocate is required to keep the affairs of his client private.

This applies to all clients to be continuous or casual ones.  The advocate is supposed to observe this duty during service and after service.

However, there is a circumstance where an advocate is compelled by law to produce information about his client


An Advocate is supposed to be loyal to his client.  He is required to respect and prioritize all the concerns and affairs of the client.

An advocate should protect the interest of his clients and not by any manner hurt his client by his act or omission.


An advocate is required to deal with their clients in an open and undisguised manner.

There are supposed to provide guidance to their clients and inform them of the real progress of their case. He should not use his position and ignorance of his client to attract unfair advantages.

Competence and Skills

Lawyers are under a tortuous duty to act with appropriate professional care and make sure that they exercise their skills in every decision they opt to take concerning the factual situation.

Such advice should comprise competent legal opinion based on an informed knowledge of facts and the law.

He must be able to state the merit of the case and the probable outcomes. As far as competence and skills are concerned, the client should be able to depend on advocates’ advice and conducts.

Things to Consider When A Lawyer Is Discharging His Duties To Client

The following are the important things to consider when a lawyer is discharging his duties to the client.

Not to Mislead the Court.

The advocate’s duty to serve his client to the exclusion of all others is not absolute in the sense that it is tempered by his duty to the court.

An advocate is not expected to mislead the court just for the sake of his personal or client’s interests.

If he does so he will be regarded to have acted in contravention with his duty to the court and upon proof of this misconduct he may behold liable and consequently punished.

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For example In the case of Giannarelli v Wraith (1998) 165 CL R 543  it was  stated by Mason, C.J that

“It is hereby conceded that Advocate in discharging his duty to the client must so do subject to the overriding duty to the court in which there is a strong element of public interest. At this juncture it is conceded that what the Advocate must do is not simply to propound the client’s case, but to do so in a way that helps the decision-maker to achieve the correct outcome.”

A Lawyer should not be used as a tool by his client

Though a lawyer is an agent or the representative of his client, he cannot afford to be a tool in the hand of the client.

No member of the legal profession should accept such work which makes him disloyal to the state, opponent, colleague, court, or even to himself or place him in a compromising position.

A Lawyer must balance the conflicts of interests

Though an advocate has a duty to advise his clients in several matters it is the duty of an advocate not to engage him in the case in which he has an interest.

He should not act or plead in the matter in which he is pecuniary interested for instance an advocate should not act in the matter of bankruptcy when he is the creditor to the bankrupt.
It is also for the avoidance of conflict of interests that an advocate should disclose to the client any interest that he may have in the matter so as to avoid destructions which may bring upon others.

A lawyer is required to act with impartiality, honest, and an unquestionable integrity

This means a lawyer should not be personally and emotionally involved in a case he is called upon, merely, to advocate and not to vouch.

It is a cardinal rule that a lawyer should so conduct himself in the discharge of his professional duties, as to set a good example of how a man may devote himself unsparingly to the cause he has to advocate and yet remain in some sense impersonal and an impartial minister of justice.

Advocate Duty to His Opponent

When dealing with the opponent or his/her colleague an advocate is required to observe the following duties

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The advocate is restricted to involve himself in unfair practice against his opponent. He is required, when necessary to supply any useful document or information to his opponent at the right time. He should avoid all unnecessary delays.


Advocate is supposed to respect his opponent in their dealings.


The advocate is supposed to cooperate with his opponent to ensure proper administration of justice.

Advocate Duty to His Profession

  1. To protect the image of the profession by conducting himself in a professional way.
  2. An advocate is supposed to follow all rules and ethics regarding his profession.
  3. To attend a seminar and workshop aims at improving the profession.
  4. To give relevant advice and constructive ideas towards improving his profession.

Advocate Duty to General Public

  1. To provide legal aid to those who cannot afford to pay for legal service.
  2. To defend human rights, rule of law, and democracy by being in the front-line to criticize all acts against human rights and democracy.
  3. To participate in reforms and programs that would help society to attain a higher social and economic development.
  4. To encourage the general public to obey the law.
  5. To promote important legal affairs to the general public.

Advocate Duty to Himself

Integrity. An advocate is required to be a person with high integrity.  Integrity includes how an advocate lives his non-professional life.

  1. To polish his skills.
  2. To be updated with contemporary legal affairs.
  3. To be honest and trustworthy.
  4. To love himself. He is supposed to be smart and presentable all the time.
  5. To abide by all rules and professional ethics.

Final Remarks

Sometimes during the day-to-day duties, an advocate may face a conflict of interest.

For example, his client’s duty of confidentiality may be conflicted with his duty to the general public or his loyal duty to a client may be confronted with his duty to the court.

Generally, it is advised that for the avoidance of conflict of interests an advocate should disclose to the client any interest that he may have in the matter at hand, or otherwise, he may advise the client to seek another advocate.
In case the advocate’s duty to the client and to court is in conflict, the advocate’s duty to court will prevail because an advocate is an officer of the court.

Many people want to know this. spread the knowledge by sharing this post.

Isack Kimaro

Editor-in-chief and founder of Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Mzumbe University and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law school of Tanzania. Lawyer by profession and blogger by passion.

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