Malawi Law Society (MLS) has been asked to step up efforts to build a disciplined and worthy legal profession.
Judge president of the High Court of Malawi Commercial Division Justice John Katsala made the remarks on Friday at the start of MLS two-day non-elective annual general meeting (AGM) and conference in Mangochi held under the theme Contemporary Issues in Legal Practice.
He pointed out that the legal practitioners do play a vital role in the administration of justice and preservation of the constitutional order in the country.
However, the judge president said lawyers need to be trained adequately in terms of professional conduct before they are released to appear in court to represent clients.
“The society also needs to reinforce its disciplinary mechanisms. Those lawyers that are errant need to face disciplinary actions. Usually when people see that those who misbehave are disciplined others are deterred from misconduct,” said Katsala.
Over the years, a majority of practitioners have upheld their professional and ethical virtues, expected of the noble profession.
However, there have been cases reported that a legal practitioner has embezzled client’s funds or indeed been involved in some professional misconduct like judge shopping.
As a matter of fact, a majority of cases of professional misconduct reported to the Malawi Law Society (MLS) for disciplinary action do involve failure to account for clients’ funds or indeed in some instances, theft.
The perception by the public has been that errant lawyers reported to MLS have not been dealt with decisively. This was partly so because the disciplinary procedures provided for under the Legal Education and Legal Practitioners’ Act of 1965 were not robust enough to meaningfully punish such malpractices.
“To ensure professionalism, there are two ways; first, as I have said, they need to train the lawyers adequately in terms of professional conduct. They need to reinforce their disciplinary mechanisms, those that are errant, they need to face disciplinary actions. Usually, when people see that those who misbehave are disciplined, others are deterred from misconduct,” Katsala said.
MLS president Burton Mhango said the introduction of the new Legal Education and Practitioners Act is influencing the members to start complying.
“Issues of ethics and professionalism among lawyers and swindling of clients’ money [are some issues] we are reflecting today to try to improve,” said Mhango.
“The new act has created a number of requirements for lawyers to meet, these are some of the disciplinary issues that are set up,” he added.
On his part, Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale urged MLS to police its membership to promote professionalism for the benefit of the profession and society they serve.
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