Sometime within the week a Nigerian commercial bank invited members of the public through various media to get legal advice for their businesses – a situation which many lawyers have criticized as an undue interference and voyage into the legal services space by corporate bodies.
In reaction to this, it appears that frontline Presidential candidate in the NBA national elections, Olumide Akpata, has intervened in the matter. This morning, he made the following statement on his social media handles:
“Just like you, I was shocked to see the recent newspaper advert by a Nigerian commercial bank calling on Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria to subscribe for legal services, including the preparation and review of legal documents.
Understandably, this caused quite a stir in the legal community for not only being an unlawful encroachment of the business of lawyers and a breach of the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act, but also for being beyond the statutory mandate for which banks are established.
What is more? Even the legal practitioners whose roles the bank’s advert set out to usurp, are prevented by the Rules of Professional Conduct from advertising their services.
I understand that this has come to the attention of the NBA leadership and they have promised to do something about this and similar activities.
To complement that, in the meantime, I am glad to announce that, after my engagements with the relevant authorities of the said institution, I have been assured that steps will be taken to discontinue the programme.
I took this step because of my strong belief that we must rise up to the challenge of protecting and defending our turf from interference. It is a collective responsibility. Such interference seems to be on the increase in various sectors with the resultant effect of further dwindling of the pool of services that should ordinarily be available to lawyers.
This accords with what I have been saying that the Bar has a role to play in the preservation of the legal industry by ensuring that only those who have been licensed and set up to provide legal services can play in that industry. This will not only ensure quality control, it will also improve the general welfare of our lawyers as more opportunities for legal work will be unlocked.
This was what informed the establishment of a Task Force during my time as Chairman of the SBL that was charged with the responsibility of determining the scope of legal work that is statutorily prescribed to be the exclusive preserve of Nigerian lawyers and to work out modalities for enforcing such laws.
The battle to reclaim what is rightfully ours is far from being won, but with the political will and institutional & regulatory frameworks that are dynamic & fit-for-purpose, the Bar can regain what we have lost and are still losing to those who have no business meddling in our profession.
Preservation of the lawyer’s business is key to our collective survival.”