Professional Ethics

3 Duties your Lawyer Owes You as A Client


Having a lawyer is not the first thing that pops into the minds of many people; as a matter of fact, a lot of people wait till they reap the consequences of not having one before they acknowledge a lawyer is important.
Life as we currently know it globally is inundated with information. With quick tips, DIYs and other self-help materials flying around the internet, many believe hiring a lawyer is overrated. Needless to say, this does not end well in many cases.
However, not everyone who eventually hires a lawyer feels satisfied with the way the lawyer handles their matter
Navigating such a relationship can be confusing for the client, especially in first time cases.
The client may be aware of the duties the lawyer owes generally but may not know specific areas in which the lawyer may be acting negligently.
In this article, I’ll show you three duties your lawyer owes you which the law protects you on.

CONFIDENTIALITY
Let’s face it, some of us have done unsavoury things which may have landed us in compromising positions. Or, we might have been ripped off and want to fight for our rights.
This is when you might need a lawyer to hear the particulars of your story and determine if you have a case or not.
Your lawyer does not have the right to discuss whatever you tell them with another person. He/she owes you a duty to keep your story to themselves and this right is forever. Even after he/she ceases to be your lawyer.
The Rules of Professional Conduct which governs lawyers says in Rule 19(1) :
“Except as provided under sub-rule (3) of this rule, all oral or written communications made by a client to his lawyer in the normal course of professional employment are privileged”
It’s relieving to see that the client’s interests are protected; such that a lawyer cannot use the information given by the client for their personal use or the disadvantage of the client.
There are some instances however where the lawyer would have to divulge information given by his client. They are:

  • If the client consents to the disclosure.
  • If a law or court order orders that the secrets be disclosed.
    -If the client plans to commit a crime.
  • If the lawyer needs to defend himself or colleagues from accusations of wrongful conduct or collect his fee.
    N.B Your lawyer is not supposed to judge you, your lawyer is to be as professional as possible and that means he only advises you within the confines of the law and not his moral inclinations.
    COMPETENCE
    If you have hired a lawyer, you have the right to expect competence. Rule 16 of the RPC guarantees this. You have the right to expect him to show up in court when he ought to, not to abandon your matter halfway or act negligently.
    In fact according to Section 9(1) of the Legal Practitioner’s Act, if the negligence of your lawyer affects your case adversely, he cannot escape liability. This is because the tort of negligence is applicable in Nigeria.
    Even when rendering advice, your lawyer must exercise caution. If their negligence( advising you wrongly) causes you any damage, they may be held liable for it.
    YOUR MONEY DOES NOT BECOME YOUR LAWYER’S MONEY
    Sometimes our transactions with lawyers will require depositing finances in their care.
    It is unethical for a legal practitioner to take advantage of this confidence by using such finance or personal properties for personal gain.
    This is guaranteed by Rule 23(1) of the RPC.
    These are some of the duties a lawyer owes a client. A client must be aware of these duties to ensure a lawyer keeps to them. A client is not to be powerless in the face of a deceitful or negligent lawyer. A client must know exactly what having a lawyer affords him and receive the full benefits from it.

Author

Rekanor Mbeh