There are several duties of lawyers to their Clients. Some of these duties are imposed on a lawyer as a matter of practice, while some are inferred from the fiduciary nature of the relationship between a lawyer and his client.
A lawyer while engaged in the business of representing his client owes his client the the following duties:
1. Duty to Accept Brief.
A lawyer’s first duty towards his Client is the duty to accept brief from the Client. A lawyer is under duty to accept brief relating to the area in which they practice, provided the right fee is paid, except where the otherwise permit s lawyer not to accept.
2.Duty of Privilege and Confidence to Client
All oral or written communications made by a client in the normalcourse of professional employment are privileged and cannot be communicated or revealed to a third party by a legal practitioner.
The Scope of this duty is quite wide. The duty extends to the employees, associates and other person’s whose services are utilized by the legal practitioner.
A lawyer is also under obligation not to communicate upon the subject matter of controversy or negate, or compromise the matter with the other party who is represented by a lawyer he can only deal with the lawyer.
A lawyer must also not use the confidence or secret of his client to the advantage of himself or of a third party.
However, there are exceptions to this duty. That is, there are circumstances where the law allows a lawyer to disclose the secrets of his client.
A lawyer may reveal with the consent of the client the secrets bestowed on him by the client.
When the confidence is about the commission of a crime, a lawyer May disclose the secret for the purpose of forestalling the commission of the crime
A lawyer may also reveal privileged communication when it is necessary to recover jos professional fees.
A lawyer may also reveal privileged information when it is done for the purpose of defending himself or associates against an action of wrong conduct or negligence.
3.Duty not to withdraw from Employment
It is the duty of a lawyer not to withdraw from employment once the lawyer assume to represent a client. The only ground for a lawyer to withdraw is when the withdrawal is predicated on just cause.
Such just cause might include:
- Where there is conflict of interest between a lawyer and his client.
- Where the client insist on an unjust or immoral course in the conduct of his case Example. Where a client wants his lawyer to bribe a judge. If he persists in pressing a frivolous case the lawyer’s advice, the lawyer can withdraw.
- If the client deliberately disregard an agreement or obligations to pay fees or expenses.
A lawyer who is withdrawing from employment should give reasonable notice to the client to enable him get another lawyer.
If the withdrawal occurs after full payment of fees, the lawyer should return the part of the fee that has not been earned.
4.Duty of Dedication and Devotion to the cause of the Client.
A lawyer is duty bound to devote bhis attention, energy and expertise to the service of his client and subject to any rukeor law to act in a manner consistent with the best interests of his client.
In doing this, a lawyer is under obligation to observe the following:
Consult his client in all questions that are not within his discretion.Example Settlement out of court, granting concessions to the opposing party.
Keep the client informed of the progress of the. ase and important development.
5.The Duty to represent his Client within the bounds of the law
A lawyer first duty is to uphold the law. This duty supercedes his duty to his client. Therefore, a lawyer must refuse to participate or aid conducts 5hst are unlawful.
In his represention of his Client, a lawyer keep strictly within the law not withstanding any contrary instruction from the client. Where the client, insist on perpetrating illegality, he must withdraw his employment.
To represent client within the bounds of the law implies that a lawyer must not file a suit, assert a position, conduct a defence, delay trial or take over action that is meanrt to annoy , harrass or maliciously injure another person.
6. Duty to avoid Conflict of Interest.
A lawyer while representinh his Client should not allow his personal, proprietary, financial or business interest to conflict with the interest of his Client.
Where there is such conflict of interest, a lawyer is duty bound to disclose such to his client timeously.
What amount to conflict of interest depends on the circumstances of each case. It is conflict of interest for a lawyer to acquire proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation, of which the lawyer is representing the client.
The duty to avoid conflict of interest also include, duty to not to accept a brief where the subject matter is likely to affect the interest of an existing Client unless the two parties consent to such.
A lawyer shall also not appear as a counsel for a client in a matter where he himself is a party.
However, the duty to avoid conflict of interest, is not extended to where a lawyer acquire a lien granted to him byaw for the purpose of securing his fees and expenses or contract with a client for a reasons contingent fee in a civil case.