Lawyer’s–Client’s Relationship: An Advice For Lawyers To Avoid Third Party Dealings So As Not Be Blackmailed By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.

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In the course of rendering professional legal services to persons who are regarded in the legal parlance as ‘Clients’, sometimes, a third person gets involved in either conveying some responsibilities of the client to the lawyer or through other circumstances, the situation which might result in blackmailing the lawyer by the third party. That is why the writer of this paper has written this paper as an advice to lawyers.
 
First and foremost, Rule 4 of the Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners, 2007-herein after referred to as RPC-, has prohibited this kind of third party’s dealing in lawyer’s-client’s relationship thus ‘A lawyer shall not permit his professional service to be controlled or exploited by any agency, personal or corporate, which intervenes between him and the client. Charitable societies or other institutions rendering aid to the indigent are not deemed to be such intermediaries’.
In practice, there are situations where a client might not be able to visit a lawyer which results in a special circumstance that a lawyer visits such client. More so that Rule 22 of the RPC does not define what amounts to special circumstances, as it provides thus ‘A lawyer shall not call at a client’s house or place of business for the purpose of giving advice to, or taking instruments from, the client except in special circumstances or for some other urgent reason preventing his client from coming to his law office’. (Underlining is that of the writer of this paper). In these special circumstances, there are occasions where the client takes out someone to always interface with the lawyer. Some of these third persons take this as an advantage to directly or indirectly control the practice of the lawyer. It might also be that the lawyer and the client were able to meet at the referral of the third person. This third person utilizes this advantage to always blackmail the lawyer into always offering him some amount of money from any fee received from the client. At first, the fees might be left at the option of the lawyer but whether the lawyer offers small or huge sum of money, the blackmailer is never contented. He would prefer perhaps, ratio 50:50 or more to his own selfish side of whatever the lawyer gets paid each time and not just at a time forever. This indeed, is such an unacceptable practice for a lawyer to engage in, though, the economic hardship of the country at the moment and for some periods before now, might be frustrating. The consequences of engaging in such practice, though, a professional misconduct and violation of Rule 4 of the RPC (supra), the lawyer stands the chance of being an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) of such third person, even without the knowledge of the client. The option would be either the lawyer succumbs to be blackmailed, or he forgets about the client. As the third person will go to any extent to ensure that the boss develops unnecessary hatred for him and tarnish his professionalism before the client for no just course.
In the view and advice of the writer of this paper, a lawyer who has been consulted to offer legal services should try his best and not just his best but ensure that he seeks the direct communication between him and his client without an intermediary. Also, where the client intends to appoint an intermediary, such person should be taken as an agent to the client who is bound by the principles and laws of agency in law. Also, in taking an agent, it is best that the lawyer should request for a written authority from the client to the lawyer authorizing and undertaking to the lawyer that he should always deal with such third party and that the client undertakes to be bound by whatever the agent does in relation to the contract or that the client should issue a power of attorney to the third person which a lawyer shall also be offered a copy of. This is also very important in such situation where the client might deny responsibility or liability of some implicating acts of the agent or in the fees of the lawyer so as not to live the lawyer in dilemma as to who pays his fees for the legal services rendered to the client.
It is further submitted by the writer of this paper that a lawyer should be principled and strict in enforcing the provisions of Rule 4 of the RPC, as mandated by Rule 55(1) of the RPC, especially, where a client is not cooperating no matter how big or influential he might be, to deal directly with a lawyer or offer a written authority to the lawyer to deal with  a third party, such lawyer is advised to withdraw from such services and where the client sees this seriousness, he would be left with no other alternative than to comply if he really requires the distinguished services of the lawyer or he takes away his brief.
The writer of this paper is giving this pieces of advice as a result of his recent experiences in a relationship with a client that he entered into just of recent. This story would be narrated without any fear or favour perhaps; lawyers would find some lessons to learn from it. For the purpose of this narration, the writer of this paper shall use the first person plural ‘I’ for himself. The facts are ‘I got a brief to render some legal services as a result of a good recommendation that I made in respect of a matter to a man who later became my client, through a third person. The man-herein after referred to as my client-, then informed the third person, to inform me as a human rights activist to take up the task of bringing the recommendation to effect. Then, the third person visited me in my office, and I informed him that he has to get a letter of authority from my client authorizing me to act for him or he allows me to speak directly to the client. He actually called the client but he was engaged in a programme. So, because of the urgency of the recommendation, the third person said that the client has already given me the permission to carry out the legal services. The third person then offered to issue the authority on behalf of the client since he had already instructed me to act. So, the authority was issued. Then, the recommendation was carried out and I was informed by the third person that the client requests to meet me in his office, though, I informed him that the client has to visit me in my office or speaks directly to me on phone, but because of the special circumstances that the matter was very urgent and time bound, and the facts that the client is being held up by some circumstances, I agreed to visit the client in his office. At the time of the completion of the task, the man offered the sum of N100,000.00 (one hundred thousand naira only) for the services rendered. Then, when I left his office, and while waiting at the reception, the third person approached me and informed me unashamed that all the lawyers that his boss uses for carrying out legal services always give him part of any sum that they are being paid by the boss! He requested from me too to do the same. I looked at him and had in my mind that he does not really know the person he is dealing with as a human rights activist and an anti-corruption crusader! So, in order to also put him on the scale corruption investigation, I deliberately gave him the sum of N10,000.00 (ten thousand naira only) to see his reaction. Definitely, I knew that he would feel that the sum is small and would always come back because that is the nature of the characters of a blackmailer. Mores so, I had observed it from his reaction that he was not contented with the sum of the money. Then, after few hours, he came back to tell me that I should also offer some money to his driver who drove us around while carrying out the legal services. Then, I still on the scale of corruption investigation, offered him the sum of N2,000.00 (two thousand naira only) for the driver-though, whether he gave it to the driver or not is a question of facts!. Then after one or two days, he started narrating some of his challenges with his car to me and how he is left with no money. I offered him the sum of N500.00 (five hundred naira only). I had suspected that he would want to know how much that I was given by his boss, so I was expecting that from him. Then, he asked how much I was offered and I told him that it was the sum of N100,000.00 (one hundred thousand naira only). Then, I deliberately sent to the client an SMS on his phone number informing that my duty in the recommendation has been completed, which is a stylish way of withdrawing from his matter, unless and until he offers himself for a direct dealing with me as lawyer and client. Though, the client did not reply the message!
Then, on the 18th day of August, 2018, which was on a Saturday, this man called me to say that he wanted to borrow the sum of N5000.00 (five thousand naira only) from me for him to repair his car and that he has tried every other means to get it but he could not. He said it is not because of the money that I had been given o! And that he would pay me back when he collects his salary. I asked him that when will he collect his salary? He said, until when he is paid. So, I deliberately transferred the sum of N3,000.00 (three thousand naira only) into his account details that he sent to me. Then, at that time, my investigation on him was concluded! He is nothing but a blackmailer! He would not stop but until he either gets himself caught in the silly act or he is allowed to continue in the blackmail in perpetuity’. Though, I had wished that the client would get to read about this article, and take necessary steps to prevent this kind of corrupt practices perpetrated by some persons that are very close to him, especially this corrupt young man, who is used to doing this kind of misconduct to some other lawyers who might not speak out, before it is too late. End of narration for now! More so, this might not be an issue to be tried by the Independent Corrupt and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the writer of this paper shall consider communicating this kind of nefarious activity of this man to his boss in due course! Blackmailing a lawyer?! It is unimaginable! So, from all these, the writer of this paper then thought of giving advice to lawyers against this kind of third party dealing as it leads and encourages blackmail of his professionalism and his noble personality even by persons who do not worth it. The writer of this paper finds it very unbearable that such a person would be dealing with a lawyer, a human rights activist and anti-corruption crusader and would not be very careful and think the next thing to do was for him to blackmail him and go scot free!
Finally, it is hoped that lawyers and the readers would have find one thing or the other to learn from this narration and would consider same in their practice.
e-mail: hameed_ajibola@yahoo.com