UAE lawyers reminded to not fall foul of the law themselves

Recent cases have highlighted the importance of heeding the lawyer/client relationship rules.

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ABU DHABI // Lawyers who ask for a specific percentage of a client’s compensation package, break the case secrecy rules or neglect certain cases can be prosecuted and face suspension.

A number of recent Supreme Court cases have highlighted the sometimes ignored rules of the lawyer-client relationship.

In one case a lawyer was prosecuted for specifying a percentage for his client to pay him in fees, which violates article 31 from federal law number 23 for the year 1991, which regulates the lawyers’ profession.

The lawyers’ disciplinary council let him off lightly by issuing a warning.

Saed Musalem, a legal counsellor, said that while there is no cap for a lawyer’s fees, they are not allowed to specify a percentage. So if a client filed a compensation case at a civil court asking for Dh10 million, the lawyer cannot ask for 20 per cent of that amount.

“If he did, the client could file a complaint at the lawyers’ committee and they will discipline the lawyer,” said Mr Musalem. “If the lawyer has committed this before he could be suspended temporarily or permanently from practising the profession. The client should take his [compensation] money in full amount.”

Clients can file complaints against lawyers either through the Ministry of Justice or through the concerned court.

Two lawyers were suspended from practising for one month by Abu Dhabi Judicial Department for neglecting a client’s case and breaching secrecy rules.

The client had filed a complaint to the lawyers affairs committee at ADJD saying she appointed two lawyers but they never agreed to follow the case with her while it was with the police or public prosecution.

After her case was referred to court, she informed the pair that she wanted to reconcile with the other party and tried to contact them many times but they ignored her calls and did not accompany her to prosecutors’ questionings, claiming it was not their responsibility to attend at that stage.

The second lawyer also spoke about the details of the woman’s case to one of her relatives without her consent, claiming he wanted to resolve the case in a friendly manner.

According to lawyer Habeeb Al Houssani, in many personal affairs and inheritance law cases, clients ask for some information or documents not to be revealed.

“I am not questioned about what I include in my defence memo but I could work around the info without mentioning it directly,” he said.

However, sometimes sensitive information is brought up by the opposite side so, he said, 100 per cent secrecy is impossible.

In general, lawyers are keen to protect their clients’ confidentiality because not doing so could affect their reputation, Mr Al Houssani said.

Lawyers are obliged to do all that is necessary for clients, including attending hearings, presenting all required documents and notifying the client of each step.

However, they cannot guarantee winning a case, even if some clients end up blaming their legal representative for losing, said lawyer Mohammed Sawan.

“Once I received a client who had a problem with his company and he gave me a totally different tale than the one I saw in the case files after I received them,” he said.

“I told him a lawsuit will not be in his interest and it is better for him to reconcile. He came back to me two days later asking for his money because, in his opinion, I did not do anything for him.”