Crooked and Uncouth Lawyers and How they Cheat their Clients
Men who face cruelty from their wives, and then decide to take legal steps to end that cruelty have to follow the path prescribed by law and society. Similarly, men who face criminal charges filed by their wives against them and possibly their parents are left with no option but to defend themselves against such allegations in at least one court of law, and sometimes in a series of courts or several courts simultaneously. Matrimonial litigation is often a combination of civil and criminal litigation. It is also an emotional battle. As such it needs to be dealt with at various fora including courts, police stations, and family.
A litigant's lawyer's office becomes an often visited place for him, and his lawyer becomes a very important person in his life. His freedom and his happiness start to depend upon his lawyer's performance, competence, and bona fide intentions. If a lawyer is incompetent then he should have no right to call himself a lawyer. Sadly, such 'professionals' are very common in our country due to the bar council's uncooperative attitude. If a lawyer is polite and he cheats his clients then he falls in the category of a smooth criminal. If a lawyer is rude on top of being a cheat then he is a practitioner of blatant thuggery. It is difficult to say which kind out of these three is a greater joy, since they all have their own charms. Litigants often realise quite late in the day that such lawyers are very common in our country. As a matter of fact there are many many lawyers who fall in at least two out of these three categories, and many many who meet all three criteria, i.e incompetence, dishonesty, and rudeness.
In other countries also such lawyers are fairly common, as can be made out from the worldwide prevalence of jokes about lawyers which never show them in a positive light. Mario Puzo is not the only man in history who has referred to lawyers as thieves. Thinkers without number have put lawyers in the same category as prostitutes. Every second lawyer will warn you that his profession is chock a block with opportunists and unethical persons. This is but a soft way of calling somebody a criminal. Many people classify lawyers as traitors. This is out of anger at those lawyers who collude with the other party. Yes, it is an open secret that lawyers sometimes cheat their clients in the most detestable way, which is to sabotage their litigation by leaking information to their enemies or rivals. A friend of this writer once said to him that lawyers are one of the two professions where a person cannot succeed if he does not cheat –the other being goldsmithery.
The first time litigant is often an innocent waiting for these gentlemen to pounce upon him. Such a person goes into litigation with the notion that his lawyer will fight the case competently and will do his best to make the courts give him justice. Experienced litigants have often been heard to say that it is the litigant who fights his case, and it is he who wins or loses his case, and not the lawyer. It would have been tolerable if things were bad only to this extent. The fact is that there is no shortage of incompetent lawyers who spoil the cases of their clients due to lack of knowledge of the law. Innumerable lawyers are actually cheats who spoil the cases of their clients. Such lawyers do not come into the public eye because the litigant does not wish to add more litigation to his legal troubles.
Let me clarify this point. In our country a client cannot complain against his lawyer to the bar council in the normal format of a complaint. He actually has to file a petition and to engage a lawyer to fight this case. This is a sad situation. The bar council is not so stupid that it cannot see that a person who has been let down by one lawyer will think a thousand times before engaging another lawyer. This is a provision which has been framed by lawyers to favour lawyers, much like all the laws in our country. India is a republic of the lawyers, for the lawyers and by the lawyers if truth be told. Just see the number of lawyers in parliament and the union cabinet to get a rough assessment of their power in lawmaking, and policy formulation and execution. Even when we decided to give the title 'founding fathers' to some people, we gave it a group of lawyers (I am not challenging their honesty or good intentions here partly because I value my health) like Gandhi, Jinnah, Ambedkar, Patel, Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Lokmanya Tilak, and others. The third part of our polity –the judiciary– is totally composed of lawyers. If Sibal and Chidambaram go out, Jaitley and Ravishanka Prasad come in; if RK Anand goes out, KTS Tulsi comes in; if Narasimha Rao goes out, Pranab Mukherjee comes in. Can we really fault them if they put the interest of their profession above everything else?
This writer has a reasonable amount of experience in litigation. He has met lawyers who are competent, lawyers who are courteous, and yes, lawyers who are honest. But he is yet to meet first hand any lawyer who meets all three desiderata. If you include the additional requirement of reasonable fees on top of these three then heaven help you. Even within my matrimonial litigation I have had to change lawyers a couple of times.
The thing is that lawyers are highly aware that any man who comes to them is a man who is already neck deep in trouble and/or pain and/or grief, and does not have the energy or the strength to fight back if they harass and exploit him. This is the reason why lawyers are sometimes compared to birds of prey or carrion eaters. I personally have the experience of a firm of lawyers who were handling more than a thousand cases when I engaged them for my matrimonial litigation and they just took my money and then started treating me like an unwanted person, until the day when I was forced to sack them. I remember having the distinct feeling that perhaps they were behaving in an incompetent and rude way to encourage me to sack them. This has an eerie resemblance to the modus operandi of a cheat, but there is nothing much that a litigant can do to such people because he has other problems which are more urgent.
Another thing which many lawyers do is to send their clients on a wild goose chase by misguiding them. In matrimonial litigation, often lawyers fool their clients by telling them that a petition for restitution of conjugal rights will bring some legal benefits to them like making them immune to dowry harassment charges u/s 498a IPC, or saving time, or obtaining a quick divorce. Other ways are to not defend their client using common sense logical arguments in court by providing specious legal arguments in chamber and/or by forcing the client to take devious legal routes. As a matter of fact a large percentage of people face more harassment from their lawyers than their spouses in matrimonial litigation.
A simple question which you need to ask yourself is why will a lawyer try to end litigation quickly if he is benefitting from protracted litigation. This is just like expecting a realtor to get a lower price for you when his payment is tied to the price. People try to avoid such a situation by buying a package from a lawyer. This does not always work, as you have read above.
Another common tactic of lawyers is to scare a litigant, or to fan the fire of needless litigation by invoking the anger, greed, or ego of their clients. I am told that it is not unheard of in lawyers' offices in India that a client has been referred to as a murga(sacrificial chicken). Needless litigation is sometimes called luxury litigation in the legal profession. The bar council rules for lawyers specifically forbid them from encouraging needless or frivolous litigation, but this directive is flouted every day by a huge number of lawyers. This is especially true in matrimonial litigation.
Many lawyers expect their client to address them as 'sir' or 'madam', and in return they only give contempt to their clients, addressing him with the familiar 'you' (tu) in Hindi, and treating them with disdain. My previous lawyers were inveterate practitioners of such rudeness even with clients who were ten years older than them. It is seen very often that such lawyers do not respect their colleagues and juniors also. No junior stays in their office for more than a few months. Everybody needs respect and fair treatment, but this fact is not recognised by such morons.
You may also wish to read How to Deal with Lawyers in your 498a/DV/Divorce Battle and/or 13 Reasons why Lawyers in India should be allowed to Advertise and/or 10 Things to include in your Legal Strategy
Written by Manish Udar
Published by Manish Udar
Page created on 06th December 2013
Last updated on 23rd March 2014