THE title of State Counsel is supposed to mark exemplary, impressive and outstanding legal practice. It is supposed to be conferred on lawyers who stand out in their conduct.
The equivalent in the United Kingdom is Queen’s Council, which again is a mark of honour and distinction.
Sadly in Zambia the title has assumed many undertones.
Totally discreditable individuals ostracized by their peers continue to abuse the title. Worse still political influence has invalidated the “silk” title to the extent that the Law Association of Zambia was at one stage forced to issue a very thinly veiled repudiation against President Michael Sata’s decision to name a fairly failed lawyer as a State Counsel.
What is intriguing is that, not a single lawyer given the title has been “disrobed” even when the Law Association of Zambia Legal Practitioners Committee and indeed disciplinary council has found such lawyers wanting.
There are cases where a State Counsel has been found culpable of unprofessional conduct, who has not continued to practice but have indeed retained the title.
This seems contradictory.
The association has made its position on appointment of counsels very clear, stating at one stage that,” The council of the Law Association of Zambia has taken the position that should the association, during the consultation process, express an opinion that a practitioner should not be granted the Honour and dignity of State Counsel, but the said Practitioner is nevertheless granted such honour and dignity then the association will send a notification to the membership and the public as to why the association did not see it fit to recommend the appointment. This will apply also to those appointed without following the procedure stipulated above. The association will reserve its rights in all respects pertaining to such appointments.”
Most important LAZ stated , “It is the position of the LAZ that State Counsel must command respect within the profession and as such, such honour must be granted on merit and not due to any other considerations.
This decision is meant to preserve and protect the profession and the honour and rank of State Counsel.”
If indeed the rank is supposed to protect the profession, how come then we have never heard of rogue lawyers being stripped of the rank?
It is only proper and right for the association to show some concern at the misconduct of some of their members who seem to have become a law unto themselves by disregarding some of the time honored traditions including respect for senior counsel.
It is no longer unusual to find practitioners mire in all manner of sharp practices without attracting any form of censure from the association, leading to the conclusion that LAZ has become a trade union rather than a professional body.