The lawyer is the person who helps you in legal issues. The lawyer should not be cut off from the society in which he or she works. He or she should not concentrate on professional work to the exclusion of all else around them. Law is a “social” subject, more so than most other professions. Law and society are inextricably linked, with one continually influencing and developing the other. This may explain why attorneys have usually been at the forefront of social change. They’ve influenced legislative and political decisions. It is no coincidence that many of the people who played a key part in Sri Lanka’s independence were attorneys by profession. As a result, it is essential for attorneys to see their employment as more than simply a means of earning a livelihood, but as a contribution to society in which they play a larger role than a strictly professional one.
Lawyers are in a unique position to influence the growth of numerous laws. They have direct experience with how the law works in practice and are typically aware of the law’s intellectual foundations. As a result, they may uncover legal flaws and loopholes, point out places where the law is out of step with public demands, and consider remedial solutions. They may make a substantial contribution to law reform, which is and must be a continuous process.
“[The lawyer] must be concerned not merely with what the law is, but its functioning in society and its social relevance within it. Both the lawyer and the law student should be concerned with evaluating what the law should be and the ethical ideals it articulates for society. “
The lawyer may also play a more proactive role in using current legislation to address a variety of issues that individuals confront, especially those who are impoverished and unaware of their legal rights. The environment is one such example. There are several regulations in place to safeguard the environment and people against environmental hazards, but they are not widely recognized or implemented. However, this is an area where attorneys who are interested in it have lately concentrated their attention, and as a consequence, gradual progress in environmental law has been accomplished.
Another method for a lawyer to play a larger role is to be aware of law-related matters that do not immediately affect his or her legal profession. He or she may become engaged in topics such as promoting legal knowledge and making law and legal remedies more accessible to the public, either officially or informally.
Many individuals are uninformed of their rights and remedies in a variety of sectors, including employment, gender equality, tenancy, consumer protection, and many more. While no one can match a qualified lawyer’s legal expertise, everyone should have a basic understanding of their legal rights.
“Ignorance is one of the most difficult obstacles in the road of justice.” Unknown or unintelligible laws enshrining rights and obligations serve little or no use. The legal profession has a responsibility to actively contribute to the public’s understanding of the law by educating them. This is an example of preventative legislation that is particularly important for nations like Sri Lanka that are involved in poverty reduction projects. “
Empowerment is one of the most crucial parts of poverty reduction, and boosting legal literacy is one of the most effective ways to empower people. Equally important, if not more so, is that individuals understand where they may get legal help. If they are unable to pay for legal assistance, they should be informed that legal aid programs are available (see below). Furthermore, legal education may be beneficially expanded to provide kids in schools with a basic understanding of the law and to instill in them an awareness of the importance of respecting the rights and freedoms of others. In the United States, for example, attorneys, judges, and police officers all participate in such law-related education programs.
Access to the law is another problem, more acute in the developing countries, but vexing the more affluent nations as well. White it is true however many rights exist on paper they remain of little use if they are not known, they are of equally little value, and more frustratingly so, if they are known but legal assistance and representation to vindicate them are unaffordable. It is well known that the cost of legal services is high, as with other professional services. But unlike health and education, which is provided by the state at no cost, legal services are not considered an unconditional rights. Indeed it would not be reasonable to expect the state to fund all those who wish to litigate. However in most parts of the world some legal assistance is provided by the state and / or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for those unable to spend for it.
In Sri Lanka the Legal aid commission established by statute is the principal body carrying out this function. It gives legal advice and arranges for lawyers to represent persons at a nominal fee paid by the commission, in cases where the client’s income is below a certain amount. The human rights center of the bar association provides representation in fundamental rights cases. The NGOs engaged in this area carry out such activities as legal aid clinics in and outside Colombo, but most stop short of litigation.
There is indeed much room for increased participation by lawyers in legal aid in general. Remuneration is law, but the lawyer doing legal aid work does not do exclusively that and is quite free to charge the ordinary fees in his or her other work. “As a part of every lawyer’s professional commitment to the principle that high quality legal services should be available to all, attorneys should cooperate with legal aid schemes, despite nominal fees”. It has been tentatively suggested that the ethics of the legal profession “may include the need to involve oneself in at least one pro deo [i.e. free] case per month, and offer to a legal aid clinic from time to time, to provide one’s service to the people gratis” Lawyers can also contribute by participating in the state-sponsored scheme whereby accused in criminal cases are assigned counsel to defend them, for the payment of an allowance. It should be noted that quite apart from the service aspect of these activities, they are also a way of gaining valuable experience for the young lawyer.
One of the perennial problems of any system of means-tested legal aid id that caters only to the poorest sections of the community. Many people of modest or average means therefore do not qualify for legal aid, at the same time they cannot afford the usual fees. Western countries have, with varying degrees of success, tried different methods of reducing this problem, which cannot be gone into here. Suffice it to say that lawyers should always keep in mind the ability of clients’ to pay for their services. The lawyer is in any event under a duty not to charge a clearly excessive fee. While a lawyer should generally charge adequate fees to compensate for his or her services, and in keeping with what is usually charged for commensurate services, “In naming his fee which he thinks fit, an attorney should consider both his personal interest and his duty as a member of a profession who has undertaken to make legal services and access to justice available to those in need of it’