Daniel Bulusson

“The way a lawyer behaves does not only impact public confidence in the profession but also in the administration of justice, the citizens {laymen} would appreciate the workings of the court of justice if they see a lawyer generally as one who lives, act, and advise appropriately with their best interest at heart.

The society needs to appreciate the value of a lawyer and the judiciary; this can only be achieved through Integrity, fidelity and character…” Young Lawyers Column

The courts of justice in Nigeria are considered as the temple of justice, a place where aggrieved parties are represented by counsels to settle discord, dispute, and breach of fundamental human rights no matter an individual’s status or position in the society.

The criminal and civil procedures in approaching the court to seek relief are far overwhelming for a lay mind to process, and understand its working, that is why lawyers are called upon to represent parties in the court room. It follows there from that a client can only understand proceedings based on advice, and directives from their counsel, and the courts as an umpire in the temple of justice, are there to ensure that lawyers represent their clients diligently, and in accordance of the law.

Coming down to the legal industry, junior lawyers who ply their practice in litigation, are advised to avoid short cuts {sharp practice} to winning cases, and learn court proceedings from senior colleagues who have practiced litigation for long. Which begs the question, what knowledge is passed on to junior lawyers when a senior colleague publicly and fragrantly engages in sharp practice representing clients?

A typical example happened in one of the high court of justice in Kaduna State. A suit was instituted by writ of summons, accompanied by a motion for summary judgment to recover a liquidated amount of money by selling the landed property used as collateral, the defendant entered a memorandum of appearance, statement of defence, and a written address opposing the motion for summary judgment contesting the interest rate, and the sum claimed, asking the court to transfer the matter to the general cause list so the plaintiff can come explain how the figures claimed were reached.

The honorable judge in his wisdom refused to transfer the matter to the general cause list, and entered summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, granting an order to sell the landed property to recover the sum claimed. Thereafter the judgment debtor applied for installmental payment of the judgment sum, to pay a certain amount monthly to offset the judgment sum in twenty-four calendar months, the court refused payment by installment on the ground that there was no full and frank disclosure by the Judgment Debtor.

The same day the ruling refusing the motion for installmental payment was delivered by the court, the judgment debtor filed a motion for stay of execution pending appeal, a date was fixed for hearing of the motion for stay, served same on the judgment creditor same day.

Then the abracadabra happened, the counsel for the judgment creditor approached the chief bailiff to levy execution and sell the property attached, the chief bailiff informs the lawyer on the procedures of attaching and selling immovable property as provided by the Sheriff and Civil Process Act. Dissatisfied by this, the counsel to the Judgment Creditor goes ahead to sell the property through a private auction unaware to both court, and Judgment Debtor, and sends a letter to the chief bailiff informing the court that the property has been sold off by a private auctioneer.

Sadly, the above scenario is one in many examples of how some senior colleagues engage in sharp practice publicly and flagrantly in the presence of junior lawyers without remorse or worries for the consequences of their action. Some go as far as coaching the junior lawyer under their employ to follow suit.

To my mind, a legal professional is a member of an honorable profession, thus must be seen to act right in accordance with the law. Lose your reputation on sharp practice, and it will take years to regain your integrity and reputation from court/colleagues/clients. As Hon. Justice Esther Y.B. Lolo rightly put it, “I encourage junior lawyers not to buy hook, line, and sinker what they see the seniors doing, think outside the box you met on ground, create the environment you will like to see, and let it be credited to you.”

The seed of integrity once sown at the early stage of practice and nourished through growth in the profession will bring out the best in a lawyer. It is this integrity that will be your watch word in absence, as such don’t give in to sharp practice today, in exchange for long time famine tomorrow.
Godspeed!

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