[EDITORIALS]Ethics training for lawyersWrongful acts committed by lawyers are being brought to the surface one after another. In the past, irregularities involving people in the legal profession were mainly related to brokers who brought litigation cases to lawyers. Recently, however, their criminal methods have become no different from those of ordinary lawbreakers, as was seen in the case where a lawyer allegedly committed fraud.
It was shocking to read a female prison inmate’s letter in “Citizen and Lawyer,” a monthly publication of the Seoul District Bar Association. A lawyer is said to have threatened to not let her out of prison if she did not choose him as her lawyer. It is doubtful whether he is educated in the law. Another lawyer arrested recently is suspected of swindling some 900 million won ($864,000) in deposits and bail money paid by his complainant. Therefore, there is criticism that some lawyers are putting the protection of the accuser’s rights on the back burner while busy making money.
The reason why such acts have broken out consecutively may be the side effect of the increase in the number of successful candidates in the state bar examination to 1,000, which virtually increased the number of lawyers. Only 30 percent of the graduates of the Judicial Research and Training Institute are appointed as judges and prosecutors. So, the competition among lawyers to get more litigation gets fiercer.
Nevertheless, there is no proper ethical education for lawyers. The judicial institute has been turned into a cram school where the trainees vie for better grades, instead of nurturing their humanity. The ethics class of the Korean Bar Association is a mere formality. Since 2003, the association has started to give lectures on ethics to newly registering lawyers, but they comprise only a two-hour course.
Lukewarm punishment is a problem. From 1993 to the end of 2003, there were 274 cases of punishment by the bar association. But 62 percent of them involved light fines or reprimands that do not have any effect on the lawyers’ status.
When the law school system is introduced, the number of lawyers will increase even further. Lawyers should go through mandatory ethical education for a period based on their career in the legal profession. Punishment for corruption should be strengthened, and profits gained by improper means should be confiscated.