By Sylvester Udemezue
The flyer attached/above is self explanatory; a ”Prepaid Legal Services Limited” publicly offering to provide legal consultancy, barristers’ and solicitors’ services to all manner of clients in Nigeria “for just N3,000”! And then this “legal-services-for-N3000-only company” advertising their services openly to the whole wide world in brazen violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct in the legal profession! Waoh!
Issues immediately arising:
- Is a corporation/company legally permitted to offer of render lawyers’ services in Nigeria? Can one (a lawyer) run law business or a lagal-services-proving outfit as a corporation— an incorporated company? Rule 5(5) RPC 2007 provides: ”It shall be unlawful to carry out legal practice as a COPORATION”. Rule 55(1) RPC, 2007 directects: ”If a lawyer acts in contravention of any the rules in these Rules or fails to perform any of the duties imposed by the Rules, he shall guilty of a professional misconduct and liable to punishment as provided in Legal Practitioners Act, 1975”.
- Are those behind/promoting “Prepaid Legal Services Limited” not lawyers? They mostly probably are lawyers! Why then have they chosen to flout professional legal ethics in such a brazen manner? What should the NBA do now? “Lifting or piecing the veil” to the rescue! Yea! The NBA should undertake investigations at the CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission) to unravel the identity of the human agents/promoters of “Prepaid Legal Services Ltd”; drag them (if they’re lawyers) before the LPDC (Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee) for them to get the measure they truly deserve for this affront on their own profession. Their conduct amounts also to an infamous conduct punishable under section 12, LPA. Or, drag them (if they are not lawyers) before the courts pursuant to Section 22 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L11, LFN, 2004 (impersonation). This will serve as a deterrent! By sections 24, 2, and 8, LPA, only lawyers duly called to the Nigerian bar may engage in law practice or provision of legal services; none other.
- But, wait a minute, would the NBA have the time or political will to do this? Example, how far has the NBA gone with resolution of the RPC “amendment” issue? I am now seeing “RPC, 2020”! Is there anything like “RPC 2020”? Even if the “amendment” of 2020 should be treated (for purposes only of argument) as validly done(?), how does that give rise to use of the term “RPC 2020” as if RPC itself was made in 2020? Let some lawyers quickly learn legal English or seek to get added to the English for Lawyers (EFL) forum (it is absolutely free of charge) to learn the correct ways of naming statutes and other aspects of Legal English! Hurry! In the meantime, to appreciate where I am coming from, on this point, please see the article titled, “Inaptness Of ‘Constitutional Amendment’ And Redundancy Of ‘As Amended’:A Reflective Proposition For Improvements On The Status In Quo” By Sylvester Udemezue, (LawandJustice, November 18, 2020).
- But why “Prepaid Legal Services Limited? Why all these assaults against the legal practice space?
Practical Reasons (let’s face reality): seeing that lawyers have, by their actions, inactions, or neglect, failed to win, gain or retain the confidence of many prospective clients, some unscrupulous outsiders have cashed in on these lapses on the part of both lawyers and the legal profession, to steal and take away, in broad daylight, lawyers’ traditional jobs, most times with impunity, while lawyers themselves and their professional/bar association are busy organizing near empty and impactless conferences and public lectures and issuing public statements and press releases that are hardly ever followed up with (matched by) realistic, impactful actions.
- Whither the legal profession! Will there still be enough jobs for lawyers, in the face of these relentless assaults on the legal practice space and these vicious and steady pilfering of the lawyer’s job? I have tried to give an answer to this in my commentary titled, “NBA v. IBEBUNJO: Delimitating The Scope Of Lawyers` Involvement In Sale Of Land Transactions Amid Steadily Shrinking Legal Practice Space In Nigeria” (see: TheNigeriaLawyer, March 29, 2020):
”In view of this unrelenting onslaught against the legal profession in Nigeria, would there still be business enough for lawyers? This writer believes that there would still be business enough for lawyers only if the lawyers could, by themselves and working hand in hand with their Bar Associations, put their acts together and stand up to fight against those who fight against the legal profession and its members. Unfortunately, as it appears, instead of fighting the real enemies of the profession in Nigeria, Nigerian Lawyers are busy fighting one another, fighting their bar associations, and leaving the legal profession declining and the Legal Practice Space steadily shrinking. The writer has illustrated above how lawyers` traditional jobs are being brazenly seized by outsiders, who operate unhindered, while the Nigerian Bar Association is enmeshed in needless internal wrangling and unnecessary narcissistic divisions. The truth is, nothing will work unless lawyers do something.No progress would be made in this direction if lawyers do nothing concrete and constructive to scare away these saber-rattlers. Lawyers in Nigeria need to wake up to their responsibilities! Time for the Bar, the Bench, and members of both the bar and the bench, to stand and fight to save the soul of the legal profession in Nigeria is now or never! There is no time to wait or waste; time will never be right.As Barack Obama put it, “the change we desire will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Accordingly, if we fold our arms and do nothing to halt the steady decline in the legal practice space and also to enlarge the scope of legal jobs with a view to leaving enough jobs for lawyers in Nigeria, or if we continue to do things the way we have always done by continuing with our superficial approach, there might be little or no improvements and we would continue to get the same results as we have always got while the profession becomes the worse for it. A stitch in time saves nine”.
Sylvester Udemezue (udems)