By Darlynton Okiemute Ofekeze
Upon arriving in Lagos at Eko Atlantic City on Sunday, August 21, 2022 and collecting the conference materials, I immediately skimmed the brochure for the AGC to earmark my preferred breakout sessions and I saw a session themed “The Big Wigs”. It was to be anchored by RMD. I also saw Ebuka and MI’s name somewhere, fascinated I quickly ticked it as one session I must attend.
So on Tuesday, August 23, 2022 at about 5.30 or thereabout, the session kicked off. Apparently, it was the unveiling of a documentary series produced by RMD. In other words, it was a session to showcase or advertise RMD’s commercial enterprise. From the thriller, it detailed the businesses of certain very successful lawyers who have made it outside the litigation space. One of the sound tracks for the documentary series was done by Mr. Incredible himself, MI titled “Bigwigs” and trust MI, he glorified the “Bigwigs”. One of such lawyers showcased in the series is Olumide Akpata, the outgoing NBA President who to my mind did very well in his two year tenure.
Now this is my grouse;
1. The sessions at the AGC ought to be tailored towards knowledge development. That is one of the justification why we have to pay heavily to attend. The session was like attending an album listening party. I don’t think I would like to pay to go watch a commercial. This was what it was for me.
2. Most importantly, Rules 39 of our Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits legal practitioners from direct or indirect advertisement of legal practice by (a) circulars, handbills, advertisement, through touts or by personal communication or interview; (b) furnishing, permitting or inspiring newspaper, radio or television comments in relation to his practice of the law; (c) procuring his photograph to be published in connection with matter in which he has been or is engaged, or concerning the manner of their conduct, the magnitude of the interest involved or the importance of the lawyers position; (d) permitting or inspiring sound recording in relation to his practice of law; or (e) such similar self-aggrandizement.
While I am an advocate of the review of this provision of the RPC, I do think that the documentary series which specifically elaborates the successes and magnitude of legal practice which the persons featured therein have attained runs contrary to the RPC.
3. RMD, the producer of this documentary series is an international brand, his works will always have a global appeal. This ultimately gives these already successful legal practitioners featured therein a more competitive advantage that is not available to the rest of us considering that I am prohibited from putting my law firm’s commercial on YouTube or CNN.
4. Typically Nigerian, when RMD decides to do the “Bigwig Series 2.0” or some other person starts another documentary called “Biggerwigs”, lawyers may begin to scramble for slots for a fee. This may open a floodgate for all manners as we see these days for all forms of awards and chieftaincy titles in our communities.
5. Now I do not agree that the documentary series provides a sort of mentoring for those interested in non-litigation area of legal practice as the target audience is not specifically members of the legal profession.
Finally, I think it is high time the RPC is reviewed so we can all enter the market and hawk our goods rather than this format that is tailored to favour an already successful few.
Darlynton Okiemute Ofekeze (KSC) is the Managing Partner of Onyx & Bricks (Barristers and Solicitors)