What are some of a lawyer’s duties and responsibilities?
The number of lawyer jokes that abound hardly paints law as a noble profession, but putting aside the fact that lawyers are often seen in bad light, law practitioners should endeavour to be a positive agent of change and an avenue for inspiration. This is seen most clearly when lawyers engage in pro bono work, which comes at the expense of their time, money and effort. Representing large companies definitely rakes in the profits, but it is the willingness to uphold justice for the weak and downtrodden that makes lawyers a force to be reckoned with. If this has piqued your curiosity as to what it entails to be a lawyer, here are some of the duties and responsibilities held:
1. Living by a code of ethics
Lawyers are bound by an oath they take at the beginning of their legal profession to abide by a set of rules. Published by the International Bar Association (IBA), the IBA International Principles on Conduct for the Legal Profession (IBA International Principles) apply to all practising lawyers across the globe and provides lawyers with a framework to carry out their professional duties in a manner consistent with upholding the dignity and respect of the profession in relation to their clients. The aim, through fostering a climate of understanding about the national and international rules that govern the conduct of lawyers, is that the ideals and integrity of the legal profession will be promoted worldwide. Among the matters that are covered by the IBA International Principles include a lawyer’s conduct with regards to his client and other individuals or figures of authority that he comes into contact with in the course of his profession; the function of a lawyer as protector of the rights of citizens and legal entities; the importance of considering the requirements of professional and general culture during his public and private appearances, submissions, speeches and other official acts, and the need to gain and maintain the trust of his client, judiciary and other bodies. These principles must be a component part of each lawyer’s own conscience and belief.
2. Covering different practice areas
Contrary to what you see on TV, a lawyer’s daily life doesn’t always follow the cookie-cutter recipe of fiery courtroom battles, riveting murder trials and glamorous and lavish lifestyles. In fact, for every lawyer that spends most of his time in court, there are many others who rarely see a courtroom! The common denominator here, however, is that all lawyers provide legal advice in some way or other, the area of law you choose to practice being the differentiator. Thanks to the popularity of courtroom dramas, you may be fairly familiar with what a criminal defence lawyer does, e.g. defending clients in court or prosecuting them on behalf of a federal, state or local government. It vastly differs from the tasks of those who venture into family, tax, intellectual property and securities law, who would focus primarily on providing legal advice and guidance on mergers & acquisitions, patent applications and initial public offerings, among other things. Regardless of your practice area, all lawyers are expected to master research, analytical, communication and writing skills.
3. Working in a variety of settings
Throughout the course of their careers, the daily duties and responsibilities of lawyers may change depending on where they work, who they end up working for, or their work environments. By and large, lawyers are attached to law firms, where they meet with clients – usually established companies or individuals – and draw up contracts, broker settlements and oversee paralegals and other legal professionals. As a lawyer, it’s also possible that you will be representing a single client for the majority of your career as many large companies have in-house counsels to review business contracts and manage compliance issues. In a government agency, you may be tasked with drafting legal documents and developing litigation strategies against taxpayers. And if your calling is in academia, you could lecture on law at law schools.
4. Managing accompanying administrative tasks
As hard as it is to believe, being a lawyer also entails handling administrative matters pertaining to the role. The time a lawyer spends on a case needs to be noted down in order to be billable, and this includes every phone call, meeting and work done. And to make sure that you get paid on time, there will be invoices to send out. There will also be court documents to file, research papers to organize and other forms of paperwork to handle.