You have decided to employ the services of a lawyer for whatever reason. Maybe it pertains to a land transaction which you cannot handle on your own or you want to register a business and would rather go through a professional rather than attempt doing it yourself. Whatever your reason for employing the services of a lawyer, the reality is that you most likely want great results in your favour.
One of the considerations that may influence your decision is how much trust you can place in your lawyer. To what extent will he/she be dedicated to your case? Will your opinions be respected? These pertinent questions have answers present in the various rules and laws that guide lawyers in the legal profession and practice in Nigeria.
- It is the duty of lawyers to uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the course of justice, maintain high standards of professional conduct, and not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner.
- It is the duty of a lawyer employed in a court case to be personally present and properly represent his/her client throughout the proceedings in court.
- Negligence in handling a Client’s affairs may amount to professional misconduct.
- A lawyer is an officer of the court and, accordingly, he shall not do any act or conduct himself in any manner that may obstruct, delay or adversely affect the administration of justice.
- In presenting a matter to the Court, a lawyer shall disclose any legal authority in the jurisdiction known to him to be directly adverse to the position of his client and which is not disclosed by the opposing lawyer. In certain cases, such disclosure by the lawyer has been termed behavior of a ‘worthy officer of the court.’ This is to the effect that Counsel always owes a duty first to the Court as an officer in the Temple of Justice. In disclosing cases that are not in favour of his Client, the Lawyer is at liberty to advance arguments why those cases should not be followed in light of the present case before the Court.
- Where a lawyer undertakes a defence of a person accused of a crime, he shall exert himself by all fair and honourable means, to put before the court all matters that are necessary in the interest of justice; but he shall not stand or offer to stand bail for a person for whom he or a person in his law firm is appearing.
- The primary duty of a lawyer engaged in public prosecution is not to convict but to see that justice is done.
- A lawyer must be devoted and dedicated to the cause of his client. However, he must not aid his client in carrying out any illegal act. He should also not hide information pertaining to illegal acts purported to be carried out by his client. This provision of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners in Nigeria guarantees that the interests of clients are not neglected in any way. To this extent, one’s fears may be allayed. It should be noted, however, that a lawyer is duty-bound to place the law above the interest of his client.
There is generally a duty of trust imposed on a lawyer to protect confidential information shared by his Client. He can only disclose such information to third parties in special circumstances such as where he informs his client of his intention to disclose certain confidential information to a third party and the Client permits it.It is expected that legal practitioners are always abreast of improvements, modifications and generally new developments in the law. In order to achieve this, legal practitioners in Nigeria are expected to participate in and satisfy the requirements of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programs operated by the Nigerian Bar Association. By doing this, the legal profession in Nigeria will be greatly improved.
- Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners in Nigeria, 2007
- Legal Practitioners Act CAP L11 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
 Adio v AG Oyo State (2000) 3 WRN (Vol. 3) 80 at 106