Lawyers belong to an ancient, honoured profession as per the practice of Law is a worthy calling.
The other day, a senior colleague suggested that another colleague create a platform for entrepreneurial taught skills to assist young lawyers during the COVID-19 pandemic to engage in business. This suggestion was turned down because the general responsibility of a lawyer is to uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the course of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner.
Therefore, lawyers cannot personally participate or engage in any form of business or trade. It is incompatible with the legal profession, and gross professional misconduct for a legal practitioner to engage in businesses as a commission agent or buying, and selling of commodities.
The Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits a lawyer from personally engaging in businesses. In Nigeria, Part A of the RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS, 2007 regulates practice as a legal practitioner. Rule 7(1), (2) & (3) states as follows:
- (1) Unless permitted by the General Council of the Bar (hereinafter referred to as the “Bar Council”), a lawyer shall not practice as a legal practitioner at the same time as he practices any other profession.
(2) A lawyer shall not practice as a legal practitioner while personally engaged in –
(a) the business of buying and selling commodities;
(b) the business of a commission agent;
(c) such other trade or business which the Bar Council may from time to time declare to be incompatible with practice as a lawyer or as tending to undermine the high standing of the profession.
(3) For the purpose of the rule, “trade or business” include all forms or participation in any trade or business, but does not include-
(a) membership of the Board of Directors of a company which does not involve either executive, administrative or clerical functions;
(b) being Secretary of a company; or
(c) being a shareholder in a company.
It is paramount that lawyers as operators of the administration of the justice system, owe a duty to the society to conduct their activities in a manner that edifies, conveys respect, and credence to the justice system.
LEGALTIPS is anchored by Ms CIA Ofoegbunam, an Abuja-based lawyer who is passionate about legal practice.
LEGALTIPS offers quick hints on substantive law, as well as rules of practice and procedure, and serves as a handy reference guide to lawyers, especially in court.
Published on a weekly basis, the LEGALTIPS Series is CIA’s modest contribution to legal development in Nigeria.