One sunny afternoon I was on my way back to the office from court with my boss when we spotted a sticker on a car with an inscription ‘I BE LAWYER TROUBLE NA MY WORK’. At first I found it amusing but my boss felt otherwise. He wasn’t pleased and expressed his displeasure on how inappropriate inscriptions such as that showcases the legal profession to the public. It was the conversations that followed the above experience that led to my writing this.
The easiest way to identify a lawyer’s vehicle in Nigeria is usually by the NBA stickers which boldly states ‘‘Member of the Nigerian Bar Association.’’ Over time, lawyers have now gone the extra mile to add other stickers that further publicise them as lawyers to everyone who cares to know. Some a bit tolerable while others portray the profession in a manner that more often than not diminish public confidence in the legal profession. There are so many of these stickers around these days; Don’t’ Just Get Mad, Get a Lawyer; Sue the Bastard; Don’t Mess with Me, My Husband is a Lawyer; Lawyer for Life; I Be Lawyer, Trouble Na My Work, the list is endless.
I decided to identify and talk about one of such stickers today ‘I BE LAWYER TROUBLE NA MY WORK’ for the reasons earlier stated. Inscriptions such as this diminish public confidence in the legal profession in all ramifications. Is trouble really the only work lawyers do? There is nothing intriguing even to the sense of humour about boldly asserting that “Trouble” is your job. There is no reason why an NBA sticker should not be enough for a lawyer who wishes to be distinguished in the public. And if a lawyer must use any other sticker, there are reasonable ones among the packs listed above.
As lawyers our roles are not just restricted to dispute resolution and litigations, we also help the public avoid troubles. We are more of solution givers than trouble makers. My boss would often times say ‘‘The rich consult their lawyer before entering into any transaction, but the poor wait till when a dispute arises before getting a lawyer’’. In either of these, it is the services of a lawyer that is engaged. Lawyers are needed for daily transactions; from tenancy agreement, sales of land, contract for services, and incorporation of companies, business name search, interpretations of terms of agreements and for legal representation at corporate meetings and many more.
The law profession is an honourable profession, which attract on a daily basis constant aspersion from the general public. Lawyers by themselves should not be seen as encouraging these kinds of public perception by using inscriptions that identify us as trouble makers or trouble works. We should present the profession as a friendly and approachable. We must ensure that our actions and the things we identify with endear the public to us.
It is for the purpose of guarding the honour and reputation of the profession that we have rules. One may also begin to look at the implication of such branding in the light of the prohibitions in the Rules of Professional Conduct (the Rules)
For instance, Rule 39(2b) provides that “A lawyer shall not engage or be involved in any advertising or promotion of his practice of the law which is likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession, or the administration of justice, or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute;” the sticker ‘I BE LAWYER TROUBLE NA MY WORK’ in my humble view does not just diminishes the public confidence, it also brings the profession to disrepute. It simply portray lawyers as trouble makers.
Let us join hands to give our honourable profession the respect and honour it deserves, I AM A LAWYER AND TROUBLE IS NOT MY WORK.
By: Okpako Ovokerie Emmanuella