Lawyers as members of the legal profession are representatives of their clients, officers of the legal system, and public citizens having special responsibility for the quality of justice.
Amongst services rendered to clients, lawyers’ conduct must conform to the requirements of the law, even with personal affairs. Lawyers should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, and public officials. While lawyers must challenge the rectitude of official action, lawyers must uphold the legal process. Therefore, lawyers must at all times, seek the improvement of the law, access to the legal system, and the administration of justice, and the quality of service rendered to the legal profession.
A case where there was evidence that a company represented by a medium scale law firm suffered severe damages, due to gross misrepresentation such as fraudulent acts or tainted unprofessionalism by a counsel while acting in a professional capacity was held to be against the rules of professional conduct, and unfitting of a legal practitioner.
In Nigeria, Part B of the RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS, 2007 specifies the rules for representing clients within the bounds of the law. Rule 15(1), (2) & (3) (A, H-J) states as follows:
15. (1) In his representation of a client, a lawyer may refuse to aid or participate in conduct that he believes to be unlawful even though there is some support for an argument that the conduct is legal.
(2) In his representation of his client, a lawyer shall ——
(a) Keep strictly within the law notwithstanding any contrary instruction by his client and, if the client insists on a breach of the law, the lawyer shall withdraw his service;
(b) Use his best endeavours to restrain and prevent his client from committing misconduct or breach of the law with particular reference to judicial officers, witnesses and litigants and if the client persists in his action or conduct, the lawyer shall terminate their relations.
(3) In his representation of his client, a lawyer shall not —–
(a) give service or advice to the client which he knows or ought reasonably to know is capable of causing disloyalty to , or breach of, the law, or bringing disrespect to the holder of a judicial office, or involving corruption of holders of any public office;
(h) Participate in the creation or preservation of evidence when he knows or ought reasonably to know that the evidence is false;
(i) Counsel or assist his client in conduct that the lawyer knows to be illegal or fraudulent; or
(j) Knowingly engage in other illegal conduct or conduct contrary to any of the rules.
As advisers, lawyers must provide clients with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights, obligations, and practical implications.
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.