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Two online dictionaries, the Cambridge Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, define integrity as a summation of possession of robust moral principles and resolve to firmly adhere to the code that is subscribed to. In this essay, we shall discuss the importance of integrity in the legal profession. This will be done by first laying down the required qualities to join the profession. Thereafter, we shall look at how each member’s conduct impacts the entire membership. We shall also look at the duty of care and several other honest-related issues. Thereafter, we shall assess the adjudicator’s role, and finally, we shall conclude.

As a start, we consider the integrity of one joining the legal profession. We need to establish what makes a candidate appropriate to join the profession. In the case of Mabuye v Council of Legal Education, enormous emphasis was placed on integrity as a basis for the general public to trust the profession. When the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in this case, it too highlighted the importance of integrity. Therefore, we can establish that integrity is important for anyone wishing to join or return to the legal profession. Mr. Mwanakatwe argued that the court has a duty to ensure that persons who, because of what is already known about them, cannot be expected to uphold the dignity and standards of the profession and who do not show that they can be relied upon by the courts and by their clients, are not allowed to join the noble ranks of the legal profession. The Supreme Court was in agreement that the overriding criterion for fitness to practice is integrity, and for a disqualification to be maintainable it should be made to appear quite clearly that the misconduct complaint not only seriously undermined such integrity, but also that no amount of contrition and subsequent good conduct can be regarded as having repaired and redeemed the applicant’s integrity.

Secondly, let us weigh in on which group takes more precedence in the legal profession. In the case of Mbaalala Munungu v Legal Practitioners Disciplinary, the cases found that the general public’s interest was far more significant than a single practitioner’s interest. We can deduce that the interest of the legal fraternity code as a whole, and that of the public should always take precedence over an individual interest. It is for this reason that legal practitioners should try by all means not to place their interests before their clients.

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Another virtue that is adjoined with integrity is the obligation to duty. In the following English case, Groom v Crooker (1939), it was concluded that it a lawyer is guilty of negligence if they badly carry out instructions. Therefore, as a member of the legal profession, impeccable workmanship is expected when executing instructions on behalf of a client. As practitioners, it is expected that effort to deliver quality output that will save the interest of the client.

The Rahim v Obaid case presents before us a test of honesty in a lawyer. Where the integrity of a legal profession is at play, members should avoid situations and circumstances that challenge their affirmation of the code of conduct. Personal integrity in such situations can help a practitioner assess which cases to handle or not. Therefore, it may not just be about gaining popularity or winning cases even but doing so in a manner that upholds the truth.

Notwithstanding the above, the weight for integrity does not end with lawyers that represent clients only, but on those too that adjudicate over matters. In the report ‘The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct (2002)’, officers of the court were reminded of the importance of integrity. If adjudicators practice impartial judgment, the public may lose faith in the system.

Seeing from the above, we looked at integrity being a yardstick at the entry point or re-admission request. We also looked at integrity being the fuel that the profession should feed on in their day-to-day assignments, and lack of it may lead to one being disbarred. Lastly, we also looked at the expected amount of integrity that is needed to validate justice as just. We can safely conclude that the aspect of integrity is cardinal for the survival of the profession. Therefore, a lawyer should have strong principles and firms, as well as a firm adherence to the fraternity code.

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