Personal Finance

Promoting integrity and ethics in legal profession

Members of the Law Society of Kenya at their Annual General meeting in Narobi on March 11, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE
Members of the Law Society of Kenya at their Annual General meeting in Narobi on March 11, 2017. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE 

The Law Society of Kenya has adopted a Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Practice and Ethical conduct for its members, that is advocates.

The code is expected to improve the standards of the legal profession in Kenya. When it comes to professional misconduct the code published by the LSK is what would guide the regulator as to whether an advocate’s conduct is within law.

The code goes on to set minimum standards for lawyers which are bound to ensure that they do not provide sub-standard service.

Advocates are also expected to display a certain amount of professionalism in performing their duties which include ethics and etiquette. The standards that have been set out are benchmarked against international ones such as in the Commonwealth.

These are some of the principles; an advocate is supposed to display a certain measure of independence in performing his duties— that is he should be free from undue influence or duress. At times advocates have been coerced into acting in an unethical manner by their clients.

However an ethical advocate would uphold integrity of the profession and refuse to be compromised.

Upholding honesty and integrity is an obligation owed to the client and also to external stakeholders. These include regulators and others who have an interest in the brief.

An advocate should uphold and defend the law. As an officer of the court, he is meant to show loyalty to the course of law.

For example, he should not employ delaying tactics in cases he is handling for this defeats the spirit of justice. There are many other provisions in the Code of Ethics.

While the rules apply only to advocates, a similar code should be developed for paralegals and clerks. Advocates require clerical services, for example, process servers.

As far as I am aware, paralegals do not have a professional body that has a strong legal framework as the LSK does.

I would therefore recommend the formation of an association for paralegals and law clerks, a mechanism for their registration and furthermore, a method for disciplining professional misconduct among the paralegals.

Colleagues have recounted many cases where the paralegals engaged in professional misconduct and the advocates were stuck as there was no mechanism of disciplining such misdemeanour.

One friend had this experience when the law clerk colluded with those at the Lands office to defraud her client. There was nothing much she could do as the clerk in question resigned and used police officers to quash criminal charges against him.

I believe if there was a professional association it would have disciplined him.