Cases of deceit and other inappropriate transactions among lawyers have gone down over the past year by almost 33 percent, a development the Malawi Law Society (MLS) has partially attributed to the Covid 19 pandemic.
Statistics from the society shows that as of March 9 2021 only 49 complaints were received by the MLS secretariat against 74 received during the same period in 2019/20, representing a 33.8 percent reduction.
Accumulatively, MLS has about 110 active files for complaints against its 600-plus registered practising legal practitioners.
The complaints relate to failure to refund deposit/handover file, failure to remit compensation and failure to update clients.
MLS disciplinary committee convened three times for both conduct meetings and disciplinary hearings.
A conduct meeting is a private preliminary hearing where the committee informs the concerned lawyer about the complaint to ensure he or she understands the consequences of his or her actions.
“The committee handled a total of 47 complaints during the reporting period… 25 complaints were handled through conduct meetings and 22 complaints were handled through disciplinary hearings.
“Out of the 25 complaints that went through the conduct meetings, five complaints were resolved at that level and closed,” reads part of the report signed by Modester Mandala, the society’s projects and complaints handling officer.
During the period, recommendations were made to the Attorney General’s office to suspend two unidentified lawyers for a period of one year, suspend another undisclosed lawyer for two years and admonish two other unnamed legal practitioners.
Further, the committee made a recommendation to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to institute criminal proceedings against two other legal practitioners.
“In addition, the disciplinary committee ordered restitution in 14 matters, shared among seven legal practitioners in the sum of K25.1 million. Of the ordered amount, K13.1 million had been paid and remitted to the complainants by the society leaving a balance of K11 million. Three legal practitioners were also ordered to pay penalties to the society,” reads the report.
The number of complaints has kept decreasing over the past four years because during the 2018/19 period statistics show the society had 271 complaints relating to overcharging, non remittance of clients’ funds and failure to refund deposits.
Outgoing MLS president Burton Mhango said in an interview he was delighted to be leaving office when the number of complaints had decreased.
He said although the figures painted a gloomy image of the occupation at the time he was taken over, he was happy to observe that the majority of lawyers conduct their businesses in a professional and ethical manner.
Newly-elected president Patrick Mpaka called on the lawyers to be exemplary and rise above emotions in order to elevate deliberations to the issues affecting their profession.
“We are the generation of lawyers that has been handed the responsibility to give practical meaning to the hopes and dreams of our forerunners… Let us all be united in ensuring that the law has the right in our communities,” he said.