Hippocratic Oath in the general perspective is considered to be the traditional phenomenon of medical professionalism. By its origination, the oath was written to provide a guideline to the medical practitioners in order to generate a certain amount of ethical responsibility among them. The oath was dignified after the name of a well-known Greek physician, Hippocrates (460-380 BC). Notably, the applicability of Hippocratic Oath has been changed largely from that of the past with a wider implication and a more realistic approach. Today, similar kinds of oath are not only applied to the medical practitioners but also to other professions, such as the police, the educators, the politicians and the lawyers who have a defined responsibility towards the society they live in and humanity at large. Conversely, the objective of the oath has not been changed, i.e. to signify the ethical responsibilities of a professional with virtue of his/her duties. This paper will thereby focus on the need and the significance of an oath for the legal professionals.
Hippocratic Oath for Lawyers Hippocratic Oath had been prescribed in the case of medical practitioners in order to build up an ethically responsible behaviour among the professionals. Similarly, the enforcement of taking Hippocratic Oath in the case of lawyers also denotes to confirm the ethical responsibilities of the legal professionals. With a pessimistic viewpoint, it can be stated that such kind of enforcement raises a big question on the professionalism and the truthfulness of lawyers. But on the contrary, with an optimistic and from a more realistic and logical viewpoint, it can be stated that the oath in actual terms can be highly beneficial for the society by reducing the occurrences regarding the misconducts of legal profession. It is worth mentioning that the professional and the ethical responsibilities of a lawyer play a major role in signifying the requirement of a Hippocratic Oath, which is in turn strictly driven by the legal system of a society. The legal systems practiced in the society are enforced with the ultimate objective to ensure the behaviour of the people is against any kind of crime or harm. Whereas, in technical terms these enforced legal systems are the accumulated versions of certain well-defined and specified statements to regulate and control the living of the society. Therefore, the statements need to be re-enforced in the real life practices and accordingly require to be monitored with the aim that the actions of peoples are not against the legal boundaries. Moreover, the actions needs to be judged in-depth as in the practical consequences, it is not always that a person performing actions which are against the legal statements can be termed to be a criminal. For instance, a person who has committed a murder to protect himself in self-defence cannot be termed as criminal. Hereby, it is the duty of the lawyer or the legal professional to prove the real fact. Therefore, the core responsibilities of a legal professional are to increase the efficiency of legal statements and enhance the societies' well-being. To be summarised, it is the professional responsibility of a lawyer to signify the efficiency and the integrity of the legal systems enforced to regulate and control various actions of a society. Therefore, the professional responsibility of a lawyer is of crucial value to the society which raises the necessity of ethical behaviours from the end of the professionals. Notably, the ethical responsibilities of a lawyer depend highly on their professional responsibilities. For instance, according to the rule 1 code of conduct it is stated that one of the core professional responsibilities of a lawyer is to take care of the "best interests of clients" with confidentiality. It also states to maintain integrity in order to justify with the client's trust (Solicitors Regulations Authority, 2009). It is to be noted that the legal statements are considered to be bias-free and equally applicable in the case of each party, i.e. the victim party and the accused party. Consequently, both the parties are eligible to hire a legal representative to preach in their favour. However, if it is realised that the accused party is an offender in real terms, a certain ethical challenge arises for the legal representative fighting the case in favour. In other words, the lawyer in this situation needs to select one single option, i.e. either to save his/her client's interest with confidentiality or to maintain integrity and reveal the truth in the court. Incidentally, both these options state to be against each other though they appear to be justifiable according to the professional responsibility of the lawyer. Similar to the situation mentioned above, there are several other instances where the legal professionals come across and they are required to choose one option, all related to their professional responsibility and ethical responsibility as well. In this milieu, a few relevant real life examples are illustrated in the further discussion.
A Few Evidences of Unethical Behaviour by Lawyers The occurrences of legal malpractices have attracted various authors and researchers to the issue related to the responsibilities of the attorneys in different parts of the world. Illustratively, the Akzo case, ruled by the European Court of Justice is one of the most recent and indeed the most significant cases to be related with the ethical responsibilities of the attorneys. The decisions concluded by the court in this case states that the level of independence enjoyed by the in-house lawyers is insufficient. On the contrary, the legal systems of England and Wales state that the in-house solicitors are somewhat bound to abide by their professional and ethical responsibilities. This would in turn compel them to blow the whistle against any kind of unlawful practice of their employers. However, there are also certain consequences later if they opt to blow the whistle and speak out the truth without a gauge in terms of employment and legislation (Rothwell, 2010). Followed by several other lawsuits occurring from the medieval period of the legal system in England and Wales, the regulatory body has directed a particular jurisdiction to deal with any and every kind of lawsuits filed against the attorneys by their clients. The body is titled as the Office of Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) presently, and was known as Solicitors' Complaint Bureau until 1996. However, the records of the regulatory body reveal that during 1995 almost 18,966 complaints were registered under several legislative measures, among which over 95% were against the professional and the ethical responsibilities of the lawyers. The statistical data also revealed that almost 27 out of every 100 solicitors were accused (Sherr & Webley, 1997). Furthermore, in spite of downsizing, the numbers of complaints heaped against the legal professionals raised to over 17,000 during 1999 as was filed under the OSS. This was further followed by another major instance when the director of OSS, Mr. Peter Ross was suspended by the Law Society of England and Wales. This was a result of his inscription to the plaintiffs to wait for a year for their cases to be ruled (Verkaik, 1999).
The Appropriateness of Hippocratic Oath The above represented evidences apparently depict the frequency of legal malpractice under the supervision of Law Society of England and Wales which is indeed a controversial issue regarding the professional and the ethical responsibilities of the lawyers. It is due to this reason that the authority has initiated to educate the future solicitors in terms of morality. To further strengthen the aspect of ethical responsibility among the legal professionals, the implication of Hippocratic Oath is also under discussion. Nevertheless, a certain question raises based on the affectivity of such an oath. To be illustrated, Hippocratic Oath has been in use from ages to regulate the doings of professional practitioners in an ethical manner. However, despite taking the oath there are numerous cases heaped against the malpractices of professional practitioners. This can also be assumed to occur in the case of legal professionals, strongly influencing the appropriateness of the oath. Therefore, it can be stated that only an oath in the introductory stage of a profession, especially the legal profession is not sufficient and requires various other reforms. However, taking such an oath shall stimulate the ethical understanding of the responsibilities of a legal professional and thereby shall prove to be beneficial.
Conclusion According to my point of view, the requirement of Hippocratic Oath is quite essential to stimulate professionalism within the future solicitors. Of course merely swearing an Oath will not save the legal profession from ethical and moral criticisms levelled against it but it can have the potential to resound with new practitioners entering the profession do the right things morally and ethically. As what I had gained from these tasks, personal values differs from everyone and by swearing a Hippocratic Oath, even with different personal moral views, they should obey what they swear because the oath act as an ethical model to tell what the new lawyers should do or not to do, no matter what is his own beliefs. It is more or less carrying the same doctrines of the code of conduct. And as a professional, he should not betray what he swears to follow. For example, by medical standard it is ethical to treat a soldier from another enemy even though that man was just trying to kill your teammate, because the Hippocratic Oath says it is ethical to do so which non-doctors are not require to do so. Same doctrines apply to legal profession. Due to this reason I would treat Hippocratic Oath as a general ethical guidelines to regulate lawyer therefore I would opt to swear a Hippocratic Oath. But the affectivity is somewhat doubtful with the provided reason that under the legal system of England and Wales, the solicitors require to perform under several pressures. For instance, they have to abide by both their professional and ethical responsibilities which restrict their whistle blowing power and their independence in turn. Considering these facts certain major steps should be initiated to prevent the legal malpractices and ensure the ethical behaviour from the end of the solicitors.