What to expect from a lawyer
Law has historically been associated by many people as a profession based on manipulation and deception. This is a misconception that is often propagated by lawyers’ opponents, but we cannot deny that some lawyers have encouraged this negative view and established it in the minds of many.
On the other hand, many think that lawyers possess a magic wand, so when they fail to achieve the impossible, they are considered unqualified. So let us discuss what to expect from a lawyer based on laws and regulations.
In 1990 in Havana, basic principles on the role of lawyers were adopted at the Eighth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. The statement of the congress referred to the full protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people — economic, social, cultural, civil and political — which requires that everyone have access to legal services provided by independent legal professionals. This corrects the popular misconception that the appointment of a lawyer is an extravagance or luxury.
The rules of the profession focus on a lawyer’s right to be present with their client during all stages of litigation. Also, it has become an essential part of governments’ duties to provide legal support to those who need it. This in addition to establishing unions that support and protect lawyers worldwide.
In Saudi Arabia, lawyers’ responsibilities and duties are regulated. Lawyers are obliged to practice their profession ethically, honestly and transparently in their dealings with courts, clients and society. Lawyers are required to initiate a contractual relationship with a clear, written contract specifying their fees, both parties’ duties, and the payment mechanism.
If a lawyer violates the ethics and limits of the profession, they will be at risk of disciplinary and criminal accountability, even by the public prosecutor. In case of a proven violation, their license may be suspended. But with the freedom of litigation guaranteed to each individual, lawyers are exposed to a certain type of occupational hazard, whereby rumors and accusations can be spread that affect their reputation, and thereby their career.
Many popular misconceptions need to be corrected, even by lawyers themselves. The most prominent misconception is that their role is limited to their presence in a courtroom. A lawyer’s role is bigger than that, and includes their presence in arbitration and mediation procedures. It is important to mention that their success is reflected not only in court, but in their client not having to go to court.
People also seem to believe that lawyers can offer legal consultations and solutions all the time free of charge, disregarding the fact that these consultations consume their valuable time and efforts. Applying the right standards when practicing law, and properly understanding the profession’s role, will certainly benefit lawyers and their clients.
• Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers. Twitter: @dimah_alsharif