We litigating lawyers live and work in interesting times here in Pakistan. Not only do we get to champion our clients’ various causes for the pursuit of justice; not only do we get the chance to dazzle Judges and fellow Advocates in Court with our legal prowess and the sound of our persuasive voices – but we are also members of a vital and historic fraternity of professionals in our country. Throughout history, the lawyers of our nation have been recognized as astute politicians, seasoned intellectuals and well respected individuals owing to their craft and legal prowess. When I signed up for the law, I thought it was always the goal to emulate those who came before us in our esteemed profession. Then came 2007. The lawyers of the country historically came together as one to form the “lawyer’s movement” in favor of the then HCJP, who “suffered” at the hands of a “tyrannical dictator”. The course of our profession had changed forever, it seemed.

In principle, it was a tremendous show of unity and rebellion against the Establishment. Being an Advocate, it was most interesting to see how us professional and uber-competitive litigators all came together in favor of the ultimate symbol of justice. During the movement, I often wondered what the end result would be for the future of our profession, if it was successful. Would lawyers wake up to the realization that the judiciary could only be better if the lawyers focus more on assisting the Court? Given that the “independence of the judiciary” was on the line, would lawyers adhere more to the elements of advocacy and ethics? As the movement progressed, the strikes became more frequent, the protests became more vociferous and the media talk-shows on the Box having more lawyers on their panels than usual. My Ustaad chose not to be an active part of the Movement and he encouraged us to continue working as normal; going to Court as normal and not settling for any adjournments and if so, then we must ask the Court to impose costs on the opposing party.

During the movement, I recall one day when I was to appear before a Civil Judge for arguments in a property-related matter. I was on my way inside to the Civil Court premises in Lahore when I was stopped near the Court where I was to argue. There were two lawyers – “Black Coats”, who were wearing stickers on their lapels with the picture of the HCJP on them. They saw my files in my hand and said “You cannot argue your case today – no cases are being heard by any Judges today.” I replied that I had been instructed by my Client to proceed for arguments and that it was my job to argue the matter. They became irritated with me and physically took my files away from my hands. “Now go and argue, if you must”, I was told. I had to chase them in the corridor and get my files back from them, but on the assurance that I would not argue the case. On that day, I realized that things would never be the same. And although such types of incidents did not happen a great deal, there were many hearings that were adjourned in the High Court when senior Bar Members would come into the Courtrooms and request the Honorable Judges in Chambers not to hear any cases on a particular day. Often we would prepare for arguments without any sleep and frustratingly, nothing would happen the next day, owing to our “collective” quest for an independent judiciary.

Almost six years have passed since the Lawyers’ movement proved successful. Our judiciary is indeed independent and many Courts have passed landmark decisions. Prominent Judges have since retired – the prominent leaders of the Lawyers movement continue to practice law and the legal fraternity is as strong as ever. The key word being “strong”. Have we strengthened our command over our craft and our profession, as officers of the Courts? Are we representing our Clients to the best of our abilities and in their best interests? I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that there are way too many media reports written about our alleged, unruly behavior and our supposed disrespect of law enforcement agencies, Court staff and Judges alike, for my liking. As a litigating lawyer, these are only some of the worrying signs that exist because those younger than us and who aspire to be lawyers, are watching us with extreme caution. And perhaps, with fear of not being able to positively benefit from being a part of a great profession. May the “Black Coats” of the future be better than the ones at present…