Nigerian Lawyers And The Client’s Consultation For Legal Advice: A Humble Piece Of Advice For Lawyers By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.

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As lawyers in Nigeria, there are various occasions where one is called upon or invited to render or discuss or contribute to a legal issue either relating to a particular field of law or on general public law.
Sometimes too, lawyers are invited by the media either in the street or in the studio either visual or audio-visual or the print-media such as the newspapers or magazines. Clients at various occasions too consult lawyers for their views or legal advice on a particular challenge that they have, so as to be legally guided.
It has been observed by the writer of this paper of recent that some lawyers approach legal questions or consultations without adequate and prior research on the subject matter of the question which many times or sometimes, might not conform with the positions of the law as a result of inadequate preparations for such questions.
The writer of this paper is of the view that were lawyers prepared and were ready with adequate legal knowledge and research on the subject matter, they would not have mislead or given wrong positions of the law, hence, this paper as a piece of advice, so as to avoid any negligence on the part of the lawyer in his professional capacity.
First and foremost, it must be understood as a submission of the writer of this paper that any person whether as a media or an individual who consults a lawyer on any issue of law is a client and the facts that such consultation is paid for or is a charitable one does not matter. Therefore, the Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners, 2007-herein after referred to as RPC- has to be a guide to such lawyer. For instance, Rules: 14, especially 14(5), 15, 16, especially 16(1)(d) of the RPC and section 9(1) and (2) of the Legal Practitioners Act, 2004-herein after referred to as LPA, have references to some of the responsibilities of a lawyer to his client against negligence in his professional capacity. Therefore, in rendering such legal advice or opinion, a lawyer has to be professionally guided by the LPA and the RPC, even though, as the section 9(2) of the LPA and Rule 14(5) and 16(1)(d) of the RPC have provided thus ‘Section 9(1) and (2) LPA ‘(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be immuned from liability for damage attributable to his negligence while acting in his capacity as  a legal practitioner, and any provision purporting to exclude or limit that liability in any contract shall be void’.  ‘(2) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall be construed as preventing the exclusion or limitation of the liability aforesaid in any case where a legal practitioner gives his services without reward either by way of fees, disbursements or otherwise’. Rule 14(5) RPC ‘Negligence in handling of a client’s affairs may be such a nature as to amount to professional misconduct’. Rule 16(1)(d) RPC ‘(1) A lawyer shall not – (d) attempt to exonerate himself from or limit his liability to his client for his personal malpractice or professional misconduct’.
Furthermore, understanding the need for a lawyer to avoid a situation where he becomes negligent, which though may or may not amount to unprofessional conducts considering the provisions of section 9(2) of the LPA, the writer of this paper advises lawyers to avoid a situation where anyone takes them unaware on any legal matter or issue for their input or legal advice or opinions. Most importantly, the legal advice given by a lawyer as it relates to the public on national interests tells about how the public view the legal competency of such lawyer. Also, if a lawyer is not careful and diligent in his advice to his client, he might put his client in an unbearable and avoidable liability, whether the client has paid for such legal advice or not. So, it becomes very necessary for a lawyer to always seek time to verify his position on the subject matter placed before him. More so, since it is not just a lawyer’s personal view that is sought rather, his submissions on what the law is on the subject matter, which he has to back up with clear provisions of law, then, he has to be diligent. It is then that he earns the respect of his client and that of the general public who listen to his legal submissions.
Furthermore, the writer of this paper advises the media respectfully, to avoid taking lawyers from whom they seek legal views or opinions on any subject matter of law, without prior notice or opportunity for him or them to do some few researches on the subject matter, so as not to mislead the listeners who listen to his or their submissions. Also, such lawyer is advised not to be shy in requesting the media or his client for a little time for him to carry out some researches on the subject matter of the consultation. Also, it has always been said that no man is an island of knowledge. Furthermore, law as of its nature, is not static but dynamic.
Furthermore, a judge or judicial officer too has to always verify his position on any legal subject matter placed before him for resolution, hence, his integrity on the bench before his colleagues both at the bench and the bar, might be reduced and before the public too, who are litigants, such judge or judicial officer is bound to mis-judge a case before him. And this attitude would not speak well of such judge or judicial officer even before the appellate court, where such decision is appealed against. So, there should be no shyness in stating ignorance of a position of law dynamically rather, a little time would have saved the situation.
Also, law lecturers who do not research more on the topic of their lectures and the questions asked by students would or might mislead those students which would not generate a good reaction from the students.
Therefore, the writer of this paper requires the reader of this paper to think deeply of the advantages that a lawyer would have if he were to take his time to research and consult the laws on the subject matter of inquiry placed before him. More so, doing that would build his integrity, honour and respect before his clients and the general public in case of national or public issues.
Finally, the writer of this paper understands that he might not be perfect on the views he has shared on this topic, nevertheless, he strongly believes that it is still in a lawyer’s interest to heed the pieces of advice that this paper has offered. Also, the writer of this paper believes that seeking a little time for research does not mean that the lawyer is incompetent rather it tells about how professionally principled the lawyer is.
e-mail: hameed_ajibola@yahoo.com