Worried by dwindling ethical conduct in the legal profession, some lawyers have called for sanctions against those who `chase briefs’ in the guise of rendering legal assistance.

The lawyers told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the integrity of the legal profession would be best preserved, if penalties could be imposed on those breaching ethical standards.

They stressed the need for continuous and diligent observance of the rules of professional conduct for lawyers.

NAN reports that “chasing of briefs” is a practice where lawyers beg for legal representation of clients for a fee; it is also described as “ambulance chasing” or “charge and bail”.

Some lawyers on Tuesday condemned the practice and spoke on the required ethics for lawyers.

A constitutional lawyer, Mr Samuel Esoga said: “I do not encourage ambulance chasing by legal practitioners.

“The emphasis should be on professionalism which, most of the time, is lacking in service delivery by lawyers or law firms.

“Once professionalism is embraced, the problem is half solved.”

According to Esoga, poor remuneration of lawyers contributes to unethical practice.

“Very low remuneration makes some lawyers to adopt this ingenious and unprofessional way of making money,” he said.

He, therefore, called for improved remuneration for lawyers as a strategy to eliminate `charge and bail’.

A commercial law expert, Mr Godwin Adelemoni, expressed sadness that `charge and bail’ had characterised much of legal practice in Nigeria.

“It is generally frowned at, but not enough is done to curb it; it is unethical and unprofessional particularly bearing in mind the way many of these lawyers jostle for clients in open court.

“Many have been seen to engage in verbal confrontations in the process; to curb this disgraceful act, the NBA must take the first step by working to sanitise the profession.

“As a result of the activities of these lawyers, many in the public now see the legal profession through the prism of unprofessional acts.

“In my opinion, it is for the NBA, being the professional body, to take the first step of weeding out the bad act,” he said.

A rights activist, Chief Malcolm Onirhobo, told NAN that `ambulance chasing’ or `charge and bail’ lawyers ran fowl of the provisions of the rules of professional conduct.

“It is degrading, dehumanising and disgraceful for a legal practitioner to engage in such a practice; the argument that young lawyers are facing economic hardship which makes them to engage in such a practice for survival seems to be weighty in a country like Nigeria.

“In view of this argument, it is imperative for the NBA and other statutory bodies to intervene and alleviate the plights of these young lawyers through establishment of a regime of adequate pay for lawyers,” he said.

According to Omirhobo, lawyers should consider partnerships also as a strategy to address the situation. (NAN)

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