Rising cases of charlatans and impersonators of lawyers in the LEGAL profession
By Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq
There have been cases where some quacks have been suspected to have impersonated being lawyers and some of them have been arrested and prosecuted and convicted and sentenced to years of imprisonment. This occasion confirms that there is indeed the very dire need for Nigerian lawyers to be very careful and vigilant. This paper is of the humble recommendation that lawyers have to be law enforcers as a team work in order to bring the perpetrators of this criminal act to book and to keep these suspected criminals away from the impersonation that they have taken as business, hence the title of this paper.
The legal profession is a very prestigious profession in Nigeria and in fact across the globe and it is very lucrative too notwithstanding those challenges faced by many lawyers economically, hence, the reason why these charlatans and impersonators have almost taken over the legal practice from the professionals. While some might say that it is none of their business, some might say that it is the duty of the Nigerian Bar Association to fish out the perpetrators! With due respect, I am of the humble view that rather, this duty should be seen as every lawyer’s duty. I would not refer to the Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners here because the RPC binds lawyers but this paper is about non-lawyers who misrepresent themselves to the public as being lawyers. It is my humble belief that if we as lawyers unite together to fight this cause, it is faster and easier to achieve, hence, the call by this paper for drastic measures by lawyers in united efforts.
Furthermore, there is need for lawyers to always observe letters, quit notices, court’s processes, conducts, advocacy, representation and or presentation, dressing, etc., of anyone who calls him or herself out as a lawyer regardless of whether the person is a male or a female as everyone has become a suspect unless the contrary is proved! In fact, I would recommend respectfully that whenever any lawyer is served any document purported to have emanated from a lawyer or a law firm, the lawyer receiving such document should go to the Nigerian Bar Association’s’ website to verify the status of such lawyer as to his genuineness except a lawyer known to him! Furthermore, every lawyer has to always be investigative and vigilant.
There are occasions where some of these perpetrators write letters in tenancy matters, among others. Some of them might be clerks of some late or living lawyers, they might be those who have graduated from the university but were unable to meet up with the Nigerian law school while some might be those who have been finding it impossible to pass their bar final exam or have continued to re-sit for such exam, while some might have worked in a law office at one time or the other to the effect that they have some practical experiences about the private practice of the law, etc. These unfortunate persons even know how to charge and collect legal fees and other fees that even many real lawyers do not receive from clients! They have shady letterhead and even earn some accolades for themselves as lawyers among the unsuspecting public! These are the people who make livelihood and or earnings even very difficult for lawyers. In my humble view, I am of the firm view (with due respect) that it is either one is a lawyer or he is a non-lawyer! There cannot in my humble view be such nomenclature as ‘real lawyer’ and ‘fake lawyer’! Therefore, all lawyers must if we care, join hands together to fish out these unfortunate individuals if we all desire progress for our legal profession.
These efforts shall include our Judges of Nigerian courts who sit over matters as these unfortunate people follow lawyers up to the precinct of the court of justice and in the face of the umpire judge! They fear none! They are very fearless and fearless devils! So, all magistrates and judges (including administrative bodies and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)) must join the force of the law enforcer to get rid of these nonentities from the legal profession!
They must critically observe persons who appear before them purporting to be lawyers! They must peruse the legal documents (letters, court processes, etc.) filed before them and set up intelligence where they suspect ingenuity! The legal profession is also in my humble view, for the bench and the bar foremost as they are the professionals even before other members of the public. Therefore, this is not only the fight of the Nigerian Bar Association but the fight of all lawyers who also feel concerned about this ugly situation! Let us all join hands together to fight these common enemies of progress of real lawyers and the legal profession for a more professional legal services and so as for those charlatans to release those clients already in their custody or care to whom they have misrepresented themselves so that those clients could split out to those lawyers who would be able to enjoy their sweat of being lawyers and fulfill their professional duties to their clients according to ethics and laws!
Finally, I believe that this very few words when digested would speak more than it is said! I am convinced that all lawyers would take up this fight and confidently and passionately confront these perpetrators though in a very dynamic and diplomatic manner and skills (in such a way that they do not do physical confrontation when they are not protected by law enforcement agency physically present) by conducting investigative legal practice and making intelligence reports about any suspected person impersonating a lawyer either to the police directly or through the branch of the Nigerian Bar Association. May God assist us all as we all move on to this selfless duty in the interest of the progress of the legal profession!
Long live the Legal Profession! Long live the Nigerian Bar Association! Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria! God bless Nigeria!