Legal ethics are principles of conduct which the people in legal profession has to observe while practising law. There is no date or source of origin of the same. It has developed over the period of time. It can be treated as an outcome of the legal profession itself.
In ancient days, there was no organized system of law. Ordinary people were having difficulty in the understanding of the complexity of law. Some people mastered the law and started using abusive techniques to exploit the profession. There were no legal controls on the same. Charging of exorbitant fees, delay in production of documents etc. were few examples of the same. We know that our society always had a justice system whether established or unestablished. But people came to realise the atrocities slowly. The society and the Government prescribed some qualification to be a lawyer. Different penalties were introduced such as expulsion from service or criminal penalties like imprisonment for any kind of misconduct. These led to the recognition of the social functions performed by the lawyers and the qualifications of becoming a lawyer. This was the foundation of the legal ethics. All these restrictions were self-imposed one. All the prior legislations, rules and regulations were kept in place in addition to the above professional ethics. The above practice still continues.
Now the dispute is whether the legal ethics should be in the oral or written form. Many countries have tried to codify the principles. But legal ethics is more of common understanding. It has to be followed morally. If the code of practice is in the written form, the obligation to follow the same will be more. The code is a mixture of general ethical principles and principles governing specific professional issue in the legal field. But no code can be said as self-sufficient. It is subjected to the changes in the form of opinions rendered by jurists and the bar council committees.
The principles of legal ethics has dual roles to play. It not only regulates the practice of the lawyers but also lays down basic assumptions with which a lawyer practises his profession before the Court of law. For example- A lawyer has to avoid those practices which defeat the administration of justice while fighting vigorously for his client in the Court. In most of the situations, the interests of the client and the society do not coincide. This leads to the conflict between the legal ethics and the obligation of the lawyer towards his client. Now the solutions of this conflict is different in various legal regimes. In the country, where the lawyers are allowed to present his client’s case in the most favourably right manner and the Court will decide the case on its merit will produce different results than the country where the priority is given to the lawyer’s duty to the State in the administration of justice.