As comparable to the ‘Cab rank’ rule which ensures that lawyers take the rough with the smooth, the Rules of Professional Conduct stipulates that lawyers are to accept any brief. However, lawyers have the exclusive right to deduce and arrive at the strength of any case.
Therefore, in accepting briefs, lawyers are not absolved from bringing questionable actions or arguing questionable defences on the ground that the client instructions were followed; for the reason that, certain circumstances where lawyer’s refusal may be justified based on discretion to accept a brief, including personal interests, conflicting interests, and religious grounds.
It also appears to be the order of the day that; for the fear of the authorities and pro-bono public cases, lawyers refuse to accept briefs. It is noteworthy that it has its effect on the image of the noble profession, if lawyers are seen as ‘no fee no work’. Altogether, the refusal to accept a brief is unethical and a professional misconduct to violate it.
In Nigeria, Part B of the RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT FOR LEGAL PRACTITIONERS, 2007 regulates the responsibility for litigation in relation to clients. Rule 24(1) & (2) states as follows:
- —– (1) It is the duty of a lawyer to accept any brief in the court in which he professes to practice provided the proper professional fee is offered unless there are special circumstances which justify his refusal.
(2) It is the duty of every lawyer on his own responsibility to decide what cases he will bring into court for the plaintiff and what cases he would contest in court for the defendant; and he is not absolved from bringing questionable action or arguing questionable defences or giving questionable advice on the ground that he is only following his client’s instructions.
Importantly, counsel must oblige and take instructions from clients notwithstanding who they are.