Lawyers fulfil an essential function in protecting human rights and ensuring the fair and effective administration of justice. An independent legal profession is one of the pillars upon which respect for human rights and the rule of law rests.
UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers enumerate duties that lawyers must be able to carry out at all times freely. They include, among others: “advising clients on their rights and obligations and the working of the legal system insofar as it is relevant to their rights and obligations; assisting clients in every appropriate way and taking legal action to protect their interests”; and “assisting clients before courts, tribunals and administrative authorities, where appropriate”. In doing so, lawyers, as well as ”seek to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms, and shall at all times act freely and diligently in accordance with the law and recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession. They must “always loyally respect the interests of their clients”.
As essential agents of the administration of justice they must also maintain the honour and dignity of their profession.
Governments must, among other things, ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference. They must recognize and respect that all communications between lawyers and their clients within their professional relationship are confidential. The competent authorities must ensure that lawyers have access to appropriate information, files and documents in their possession or control in sufficient time to enable lawyers to provide effective legal assistance.