On October 16, 2014, LigaBusinessInform newswire’s press centre hosted the round table “New demands of the society to the attorney’s professional ethics and services’ quality”. Head of the Commission Valentyn Zagariya joined the event and along with leading attorneys, human rights defenders and public persons took part in the wide public discussion regarding social responsibility of the attorney in particular, and the bar generally.
The key issue discussed during the round table was foundation by attorneys the new discourse in the mainstream of changes spreading in the society. Especially, how to change the tendency when attorneys carry out “mediation” functions, which stimulates corruption; how to advance attorney’s social responsibility and level of trust to the bar in general.
Valentyn Zagariya started the discussion with colleagues by reminding the initiative that was suggested by Ukrainian Bar Association (UBA) to sign so called “Ethic rules” in 2008. Approximately twelve firms signed the document. One of the items states that a firm which becomes an opponent in the court process should not use nonprocedural methods of influence on the court. UBA had plans to have agreement signed by all legal community. In case of breaking procedural requirements to the mentioned document, arbitration court proceedings should have taken place including public announcement of information regarding breaking ethic rules by a firm. “In other words, by reputational pressure we planned to change nonprocedural lawyer’s actions but, unfortunately, the document did not win too much popularity among main players of the legal market. This initiative is in the past now. But maybe, there is some sense in reanimating this approach”, noted Valentyn Zagariya.
One more problem that repeated in the Commission’s practice was the issue of “pocket” or “police” lawyers. Head of the Commission mentioned as an example the case of one of the attorneys who joined the process as a defender for just one procedural action. During this action client testified against himself and confessed. This incident has broken Ethics rules, in particular Article 23, as a suspect whose rights were represented by the attorney for one procedural action, already had attorney from the Coordinating Centre for Legal Aid Providing.
“We think that people who breathe upon attorney’s image should be disbarred, but we have to prove this in a legal way, that is why the Commission follows all procedures”, emphasized Valentyn Zagariya.
The issue of holding attorney disciplinary responsible raised active discussion and Head of the Commission announced one more example from the Commission’s practice. Representatives of the Bar Council of Ukraine are trying to force the Commission to disbar those attorneys who do not pay attorney’s fees, as it is noncompliance of attorney’s self governance bodies’ decisions. “Within this issue the Commission is guided by the Article 67 of the Rules of Advocate’s Ethics which envisage principle of guilt. All violations are examined by the Commission through the procedural demands to the decision conclusion made by the regional commission. That is why in both cases the Commission considered complaints regarding holding attorney liable for not paying attorney’s fees and decided to send the case for a new consideration to the regional commission, due to irregularities made by regional commissions during the consideration of the disciplinary cases”, – added Valentyn Zagariya.
The issue of the “honorarium of success” was also analyzed among the announced problems. Statistics of the Commissions’ activity shows that almost 40% of complaints are connected with honorarium issues. When plaintiffs accuse attorney for overstatement rates for his or her services the Commission usually support attorney. But when the Commission deals with the case when attorney has taken honorarium and did not provide services the disciplinary proceeding starts and the Commission tries to bring attorney to disciplinary responsibility.
“Very often we deal with pointless complaints from the disciplinary responsibility point of view. Maybe, it is a reason for representatives of the Coordinating Centre for Legal Aid Providing to conduct monitoring of the quality of attorney’s services. There are a lot of cases when we have no violation of ethics rules, but issues of services’ quality are present. That is why I agree with the statement that disciplinary commission cannot control quality of the services and replace the Coordinating Centre for Legal Aid Providing. These issues are in parallel spheres, because rules of attorney’s ethics and quality of services are different things”, summarized Valentyn Zagariya.
At the end of the event participants summarized that attorneys should establish a framework of ethics principles in the society within the fight against corruption in the legal support sphere. For this matter, only legal instruments should be used.