A reliable and ethical legal fraternity is essential for the administration of justice. The legal profession is regarded as a noble one and any harm caused by lawyers, whether knowingly or due to a lack of expertise, can have far-reaching consequences for generations to come. That’s why the recent news of the Bar Council taking strict action against four legal firms, including paralegals, is a welcome development.

As a young and private lawyer in the country, Jabmi Tshogdey recognizes the paramount importance of a well-disciplined legal fraternity in securing justice, promoting the rule of law, and building confidence in the legal system. Unfortunately, there have been instances where clients hired lawyers who still need to fulfil their duties, resulting in a loss of time, money, and trust. For example, in one case, a client alleged that they had hired a lawyer and agreed to pay over a million ngultrums to assist them in dealing with a property lawsuit. However, after a few hearings, the lawyer began making excuses and the client had to attend in place of the lawyer and, in another case, the client who was detained lost contact with his lawyer and he asked the court to help him find the lawyer as an entire document was with the lawyer.

The Jabmi Act of 2003 outlines five major duties that Jabmi practitioners must adhere to, including general duties, duties to the client, duties to the opponent, the duty to the court, and duty to Jabmi during negotiation. For example, Jabmi practitioners have a duty to advise clients on their legal rights and obligations, take legal action to protect their interests and represent them with sincerity and commitment in expediting their cases. 

The law requires that Jabmi must conduct all business entrusted to them with the utmost care, diligence, and skill, and take utmost care of all money and property belonging to the client assigned to Jabmi’s care. They must also neither conceal from the client anything of which the client should be informed, nor disclose to others information imparted to them by the client in confidence. A Jabmi, or a Bhutanese lawyer, can face numerous consequences of removal from the roll or barred from practicing under this Act or other laws.

There are steps that can be taken to prevent from issues happening later in the case.

Under the Jabmi Act and Regulations, there must be a client-lawyer agreement before entrusting their case to a lawyer. This agreement should include, among others, the fees to be paid to the lawyer, which should be based on the services provided rather than the outcome of the case. It is important to note that lawyers are prohibited from agreeing on the outcome of a case. The courts will decide each case based on facts, evidence, and laws. Thus, no lawyer can predict the outcome. Should any issues arise between the client and the lawyer, the client can file a complaint with either the Jabmi Tshogdey or the Bar Council.

The Bar Council serves as the regulatory agency for lawyers. A strong and ethical legal fraternity is fundamental to the administration of justice. The legal fraternity must adhere to the ethical standards of the Code to represent a client.  Public confidence in a Jabmi is key to justice and social protection. 

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.