Every young law aspirant who has attended law school is ushered into the fraternity with the opening lines in their orientation programme, “Welcome to this noble profession”. A question thus arises as to why the legal profession is considered to be noble. KV Krishnaswamy Iyer’s classic Professional Conduct and Advocacy contains a fine discussion on the place of the legal profession in the order of society, and why it is said to be noble. Justice Iyer calls the legal profession as “the most brilliant and attractive of peaceful professions, with responsibilities both inside and outside it, which no person carrying on any other profession has to shoulder”. While addressing the question of practice of legal profession, he says an “advocate has to deal with the greatest possible variety of human relations and has his mettle constantly tried from every direction. For the same reason, an advocate earns great social distinction, which ought not to be misused at any cost.” The underlying ethos of the legal profession is the service to society, akin to that of a doctor. The aim is to protect citizens from social diseases.
The common understanding of law, as per the Oxford Dictionary is that it is the system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties. However, law is a more nuanced concept with different shades and complexities. It is an integral part of society as it reflects the accepted code of conduct that is prescribed or formally recognized by the community.
The evolution of mankind has been intertwined with conflict, either with each other or against the community in general. Therefore, to preserve the social balance, laws were conceived as mutually agreed upon rules which the society would follow. Law has been deeply linked to the growth of civilization. Historical records show ancient Egyptian law, dating as far back as 3000 BC, containing a civil code that was probably broken into twelve books. It was based on the concept of Ma’at, characterised by tradition, rhetorical speech, social equality and impartiality. The Greek and Roman philosophy greatly influenced the concept of modern law and democracy. The development of jurisprudence as a separate discipline shows the importance of the philosophy of law. The concept of law evolved from divine law given to man by God to John Austin’s utilitarian stance that law is the command of the sovereign backed by sanction. Law has also been studied from various lenses such as economics, sociology, etc. One common binding point is that they all converge on the fact that law is a reflection of society and its practices and beliefs.
The purpose of law in society is to preserve the moral sanctity that binds the society. Therefore, the legal profession is considered a noble profession as it is the upholder and protector of law. It is a service-oriented profession which aims to serve society. Roscoe Pound captured the essence of this sentiment when he wrote, “Historically, there are three ideas involved in a profession: organisation, learning, and a spirit of public service. These are essential. The remaining idea that of gaining a livelihood is incidental.” Lawyers are considered to be social engineers, who bring about social change and development. Legal cases are embodiments of social change.
India has always had a rich legal history. The journey began from the Rig Vedic age to that of Manusmriti to Arthashartra to the law under the Mughal which was transplanted by the British legal system. The legal cases during the British era decided by the Privy Council are still quoted today, and the legal principles are upheld and followed which are reflected in the Supreme Court judgments.
The legal profession has always been considered a noble profession. This was recognised in numerous Supreme Court judgments such as Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice v. Bar Council of India [(1995) 1 SCC 732] where the Apex Court enunciated that the duty of a lawyer is to assist the court in the administration of justice, the practice of law has a public utility flavour and, therefore, he must strictly and scrupulously abide by the Code of Conduct behoving the noble profession. The legal profession is nothing without its ideals and ethics. The client-attorney relationship is fiduciary in nature, and hence the lawyers have the duty of care.
Every law school curriculum has an important paper on professional ethics, where young minds are taught the importance of upholding the ideals and ethics of this profession. This is very important because good ethical practices need to be inculcated so that young professionals perform their duty in justice dispensation. These good practices are reflected in the manner lawyers present the arguments of the parties in front of the Court.
The judiciary is an indispensable wheel of justice and its contribution in making the legal profession a noble one ought to be highlighted and admired. The luminaries of the Indian judiciary have a common underlying golden thread. It is their quest for fearless justice and desire for preserving equality and respect for human dignity. Doyens such as Justice Krishnaswamy Iyer have reshaped Indian law. Some landmark legal cases and Supreme Court judgments have changed the course of law and the perception of society. The impact of these Supreme Court judgments can be seen in our daily lives.
Legal research is an integral aspect of the profession. The better the research, more cogent will be the arguments of the petitioner or respondent. The Courts have reiterated in a number of legal cases the importance of proper legal research done by the counsels of the parties. Justice dispensation becomes easier when the judiciary and the counsels work in tandem. The ultimate aim of the entire system of dispute resolution, be it through litigation or alternate dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation or arbitration, is upholding and providing justice. The citizens of the country consider the courts as their guardian, as a protector. It is the ultimate resort when they have suffered any legal loss or injustice.
The preservation of human dignity is dependent upon various rights and duties conferred. The Courts are the protectors of these rights. The Courts play an integral role as defenders of the citizens, which are evident in the multifarious legal cases all across the country. The legal professionals make a significant contribution to the preservation of these rights and duties, and thereby act as social engineers. The primary allegiance of the lawyer is to the Court, where his duty is to assist the Court in justice dispensation. The arguments on behalf of the petitioner or the respondent are forwarded to help the Court gauge the legality of the issues at hand, and decide accordingly, in a just, fair, and reasonable manner.
The journey of legal professionals is a tough one. The cases are different from each other, and therefore, the approach to tackle each is different. Lawyers have to arm themselves to be able to accept the challenges of the varied legal cases with the same zeal and tenacity. This skill is acquired over the years, investing time, sweat and blood. Hard work and perseverance is the key to succeed in this competitive profession. The hardships and toils of the profession not only build a good lawyer but also build a strong and persistent individual who can achieve his aims and goals. It makes an individual a better human being who is sensitive to the needs of the society and strives to contribute to social justice in every way possible.
Legal cases are a reflection of the society. Each story brings to light different aspects, relationship dynamics between the parties, issues, practices and customs. The question with regards to the ideals of society and morality are important underlying issues in certain legal cases. The Courts address these multifaceted problems along with the assistance of the counsels who frame arguments of both the parties. The whole process, therefore, is to uphold the ideals and morals of society, which are indispensable. A society without morals and ideals would result in utmost chaos and anarchy.
The nobility of the legal profession lies in the selfless efforts of the legal community to uphold the ideals of the society and the relentless exertions to serve the society. The effect of this effort is visible in the myriad landmark Supreme Court judgments, and various other legal cases which have shaped the way law is perceived and has impacted the society. Lawyers, judges, and the other stakeholders of the legal system work together, hand in glove. They are inspired and strengthened, guided and enriched by concepts of justice, equity and good conscience so that they can perform their duty to the society with sincerity and integrity. The dispensation of justice is not solely dependent on the judiciary but is a joint act of the Bar and Bench.