The recent advertisement by  First Bank of Nigeria Limited  offering to provide legal services to its customers exemplifies what underpins my call for a UNITED BAR.

There are legal practitioners employed within First Bank as corporate counsel and my immediate thoughts upon seeing this advert was that these legal practitioners were going to be the ones to provide these advertised legal services; to the detriment of their colleagues in private practice.

I have since spoken with senior corporate counsel at First Bank and I have been assured that they knew nothing about this advert. I am advised that the advert is the brainchild of the bank’s marketing department, working in collaboration with some external law firms and I am assured that it has been pulled from circulation.

I have also spoken with the Chairman of the Association of Banks Legal Advisers & Company Secretaries (ABLAC) who has assured me that the Association also considers adverts such as that issued by First Bank to be an aberration.

This incident and a similar one involving Union Bank of Nigeria Plc a couple of years ago, accentuate the importance of members of our profession uniting to protect the profession.

The rules of our profession placing limits on what legal practitioners in different positions can and cannot do are clear. For these rules to be effective, legal practitioners practicing in house must cooperate with their colleagues in private practice to make these rules work. Corporate counsel in First Bank have done so in this case and I salute them.

Conversely, the NBA must cater for and address the needs and concerns of in house counsel just as it addresses those of lawyers in private practice.

Let’s build a UNITED BAR.

Let’s do better.

Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN, FCIArb

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