‘No Advertising Rule’, Pro Bono and the Rest of Us

Dele Igbinedion

Yea. Yea. Yea. I know that after reading this article, some sanctimonious folks are going to pontificate to me about ambulance chasing and such idle talk. Such people always see nothing beneficial about articles like this which is aimed at inspiring other people to rise up and be the best that they can be for others.

I must say, for the benefit of the genuine inquirers, that I am advisedly aware of the ‘no advertising rule’ for Lawyers in Nigeria. So, I always avoid any appearance of advertising or any such thing like a plague. Even public showmanship or appearances bore me, because I am by nature, an intensely private person. I hardly even find it pleasurable to visit people or to entertain guests at home. I like solitude.

Strangely, I find that solitude and the crowded company of myself usually proves to be more convivial for me than being in the midst of garrulous fellows. In solitude, I can dream dreams and see visions. In solitude, I can contemplate. In solitude, I can pray with no pretensions to the God who helps me mightily. In solitude, I can hear from God with no interruptions from you. In solitude, I can see my way through the valleys and the shadows of life. In solitude, I can glory in the blessings of being alive, of being well and of being relevant in my generation. But oh, I digress from the subject.

Personally, I am of the view that there is no remaining purpose for the archaic rule which forbids lawyers from advertising in Nigeria. This ‘no advertising’ rule has long been jettisoned in England and Wales from where we copied it and even the United States of America, where lawyers can advertise from coast to coast on television, trumpeting their services and calling for more clients. So why retain it here in Nigeria?

The age old retort that the legal profession is an honourable one and that honourables do not advertise is swiftly defeated by the fact that while lawyers in the UK and the USA advertise, they are not dishonourable in any way. On the contrary, UK and US lawyers are the envy of other lawyers around the world.

Despite overwhelming evidence, Nigeria lawyers refuse to move with the times in the area of attracting more business, but ill advisedly remain in the fossilized past. As for me, I am a loyal Barman. So, I am abiding by the rule by never, ever, advertising.

But I cannot but notice that UK and US lawyers’ open advertising also opens them up to tremendous business opportunities and ability to raise capital for their firms. Some UK law firms are even quoted as public companies on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), with obvious access to capital on a large scale.

Just imagine, as a lawyer, what investment capital could do for your firm. For starters, you could hire top rate staff, rent offices that can attract quality clients, even install, or if you already have, upgrade your IT infrastructure. You could be in a position to bid for high value briefs and consultancies. You will possess the financial ability to weather difficult times, if they ever surface.

Better still, you could hire a lawyer or an entire team or department to handle cases pro bono. Then, after working for several years, you can retire while your law firm continues, and still pay you pension and other retirement benefits. Etcetera. Well, that is the Eldorado where UK and US firms dwell.

But there is a big issue here for me. It is that the more money a law firm has, the more pro bono work it can do. So many people cannot afford to hire lawyers. But they so need lawyers. In the face of the massive need, massive financial resources are equally required to keep a law firm running profitably while helping those people who genuinely cannot afford to hire a top rate lawyer or law firm to advocate their causes.

So maybe, just maybe, we need to change our thinking a little just to accommodate ideas that can help us help the poor and needy amongst us.

(Dele Igbinedion Esquire is a lawyer and the Principal Partner of ‘Dele Igbinedion’ Chambers. He can be reached on Tel/WhatsApp 08059863558, E-mail: deleigb@yahoo.co.uk)

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