This post covers everything you need to know about the roles of advocates.
Here I will take you through
- Advocate role to the court
- Advocate role to the client (fiduciary duty)
- Advocate role to his opponent
- Advocate role to his profession
- Advocate role to the general public
- Advocate role to himself
Being an advocate might not be easy for those who are not devoted enough.
Advocating is a career that involves a lot of crucial duties that 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.
See also: the difference between advocate/lawyer/attorney/barrister/solicitor
Here, the roles of advocates in a broader sense will be covered.
Read also: why lawyers are important?
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Roles of Advocate
Generally, the Roles of Advocates are classified into six-folds;
- Roles of Advocate to the court
- Roles of Advocate to the client
- Roles of Advocate to his opponent
- Roles of Advocate to his profession
- Roles of Advocate to the general public
- Roles of Advocate to himself
Roles of Advocate to Court
Advocate duty to the court is one of the very important roles of the advocate in the administration of justice and the legal system at large.
In court, an advocate is supposed to discharge the following duties;
- To assist the court to reach a proper decision. Here an advocate is required to conduct huge research concerning the case at hand and also to avail to court, every documents and evidence to enable the court to reach its decision.
- Not to mislead the court by intentionally giving false information.
- 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.
Roles of Advocate 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.
The advocate role to the client includes;
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 in 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 cases. 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 roles 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 be held liable and consequently punished.
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 on 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 that may bring upon others.
A lawyer is required to act with impartiality, honesty, 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.
According to UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers the duties of lawyers towards their clients shall include:
(a) Advising clients as to their legal rights and obligations, and as to the working of the legal system in so far as it is relevant to the legal rights and obligations of the clients;
(b) Assisting clients in every appropriate way, and taking legal action to protect their interests;
(c) Assisting clients before courts, tribunals or administrative authorities, where appropriate.
Roles of Advocate to His Opponent
When dealing with the opponent or his/her colleague an advocate is required to observe the following duties
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.
An advocate is supposed to respect their opponent in their dealings.
The advocate is supposed to cooperate with his opponent to ensure the proper administration of justice.
Roles of Advocate to His Profession
- To protect the image of the profession by conducting himself in a professional way.
- An advocate is supposed to follow all rules and ethics regarding his profession.
- To attend a seminar and workshop aimed at improving the profession.
- To give relevant advice and constructive ideas towards improving his profession.
Roles of Advocate to General Public
- To provide legal aid to those who cannot afford to pay for legal services.
- To defend human rights, rule of law, and democracy by being on the front line to criticize all acts against human rights and democracy.
- To participate in reforms and programs that would help society to attain higher social and economic development.
- To encourage the general public to obey the law.
- To promote important legal affairs to the general public.
Roles of Advocate to Himself
- Integrity. An advocate is required to be a person with high integrity. Integrity includes how an advocate lives his non-professional life.
- To polish his skills.
- To be updated with contemporary legal affairs.
- To be honest and trustworthy.
- To love himself. He is supposed to be smart and presentable all the time.
- To abide by all rules and professional ethics.
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 the court is in conflict, the advocate’s duty to the court will prevail because an advocate is an officer of the court.
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