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‘Lawyers can promote, advertise practice’

By Yetunde Aypbami Ojo
12 February 2019   |   3:50 am
Contrary to the belief that the Rules of Professional Conduct forbid lawyers from engaging in advertisement, legal experts have debunked it. They said the rules give room for advertisement.

Marx Ikongbeh (left); Chinyere Okorocha, Busola Ajala (Convener), Omoogbube Anetekhai, Mrs Funmi Roberts and Israel Aye at The Business of Law Conference in Lagos.

Contrary to the belief that the Rules of Professional Conduct forbid lawyers from engaging in advertisement, legal experts have debunked it. They said the rules give room for advertisement.

Speaking at the maiden Business of Law Conference, with the theme, “Mastering the business of the legal profession: A mechanism
for wealth creation,” an Abuja-based lawyer, Marx Ikongbeh, said that the Legal Practioners Rules of Professional Conduct actually provided
for a window through which lawyers could promote their practice.

Ikongbeh, who spoke alongside other panelists at a session on “Incorporating business strategies into legal practice without breaking the Legal Practitioners Rules of Professional Conduct,” noted that what the rules forbid was solicitation of briefs or advertising in a way that is annoying to the recipient or in a way that tends to put other lawyers down.

Referring to Rule 39(1) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, he said: “When we really understand this, we would see that to a large extent we can advertise. I think there are three broad areas of marketing;there is advertisement, there’s soliciting, and then there is promotion. Advertising talks about making yourself known, promotion talks about creating a brand and conveying yourself as a professional but soliciting is what the rules forbid. You cannot beg for a brief .

“The rules say you cannot solicit personal employment through certain means such as circulars, handbills and the rest.”He said the misconception by many that lawyers could not advertise was because they had not moved away from the 1980/1982 Rules of Professional Conduct where all forms of advertising were actually abolished.

He said some of the means by which lawyers could advertise or promote their practices include writing legal opinions on public interest issues in the newspapers; attending and speaking at relevant conferences as well as taking advantage of various social media platforms.
Ikongbeh said that he hired a management consultant to advice his firm on business strategies.

Ultimately, he said it was the quality of work done that remains the greatest marking tool for every lawyer.“Let the quality of your work speak for you,” he said.Corroborating Ikongbeh’s position, Mrs Chinyere Okorocha of Jackson & Edu, added that lawyers could also promote their practice by creating a website. She said: “Have a website. You can go to town on your website. Competition is fierce and you must keep the principle of integrity and keep your hands clean.”

So also, the Convener of Business of Law Conference, Busola Ajala, said lawyers could achieve a lot by using even the little window of advertisement provided by the Legal Practitioners Rules of Professional Conduct.

“So, I would not recommend that the strict bar against advertisement should be taken away but we can leverage the little window we have for
advertising. I believe that if we effectively operate even within that limit, we can get something,” she said.A lawyer and Chairman, Board of Trustees of Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ) Mrs Funmi Roberts narrated how she began her law practice in a single room, and stayed at it despite the challenges of raising children.

“You have to determine what success means to you. All I did was writemy story for myself. I kept my practice small, but I never left law,”
she said.According her, despite the challenges of raising four successful sons,being able to plan ahead helped her career.

Besides, she said she did not focus on making money at first, but on building relationships and networks, all of which bore fruits down the