YOU AND YOUR LAWYER.
A legal practitioner is a person who through a regular program of study is learned in legal matters and has been licensed to practice his or her profession. In Oketade v. Adewunmi, the Supreme Court defined a legal practitioner as follows
…By virtue of sections 2(1) and 24 of the legal practitioners Act a person is entitled to practice as a barrister and solicitor if and only; his name is on the roll. And “legal practitioner’’ means a person entitled in accordance with the provisions of the Act to practice as a Barrister or as a Barrister and Solicitor, either generally or for the purposes of any particular office or proceedings…
A legal practitioner in Nigeria practices as both barrister and solicitor and must have his name on the Supreme Court’s register. A legal practitioner is in a fiduciary relationship with his client. The word ‘‘fiduciary’’ is coined from the latin word fiducia which means trust. It best describes a person who has the power and obligation to act for another with absolute trust, good faith and honesty. A legal practitioner as a professional is bound by certain rules of professional conduct and the profession is governed by the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act. As a result, your lawyer owes you some professional duties, breach of which you can take action against him for negligence. Some of the duties your lawyer owes you are as follows;
Duty to accept briefs and prepare documents:
Your lawyer owes you duty to defend your right when you’re sued or you intend to sue someone, you have right to consult a lawyer for legal advice before making decisions, you have right to approach a lawyer to assist in drafting, reviewing and interpreting properties and commercial agreements. All these rights shouldn’t be unreasonably denied. However, be informed that this right is not unlimited; a brief can be rejected if the lawyers do not have expertise in an area of law or not you couldn’t agree on his professional fees.
Role to take proper instruction:
Upon briefing a lawyer, you retain the right of a principal while your lawyer retains the right of agent; your lawyer is expected to use his legal skills in defending your right and should not go beyond the scope of your instruction. It is important that your lawyer agree and obey your brief, specific instruction, side of the story and defend you within the ambit of your instruction. Your lawyer is not supposed to visit your house or office to receive instruction except in rare circumstances
Duty to represent you within the bounds of the law:
Your lawyer is not supposed to conduct a civil case or make a defence in a civil case when he knows or reasonably ought to know that it is intended merely to harass or injure the opposite party or to work oppression or wrong. Your lawyer should at all-time keep strictly within the law notwithstanding any contrary instruction by his client and where the client instructs the lawyer to breach the law; it is the duty of the lawyer to withdraw his service. The lawyer on the other hand shall not give advice to the client that is calculated to cause a breach of the law or bring disrespect to court. He shall not knowingly engage in illegal conducts which are contrary to the ethics of the profession.
Any information either written or oral you shared with your client should at all; therefore a legal practitioner is expected to treat the information and communication between himself and his client with the highest degree of confidence. A legal practitioner should ensure not to reveal confidence or secrets given to him by his client use the confidences or secrets given to him to the client’s disadvantage or use confidence or secrets of his client to his personal or third party’s advantage without the consent of his client. Confidences or secrets of his client may however be revealed if the client consents, when permitted by law, when the client intends to commit crime or when the legal practitioner deems it necessary to collect his fees or defend himself against allegation of professional misconduct.
Written By: Leke Oyeniran Esq.