What actually is the role of Lawyers in the sociery? Do we need them?
Your question is relevant, for it is the inability to comprehend and appreciate the role of lawyers that led to one of the old adage written by Shakespeare: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers!” Others say: “Lawyers make money out of trouble and plenty trouble out of money
The question was once put to Nigerians about what they think Nigerian lawyers do. Listen Jo their answers. Some said: “Lawyers only know how to perpetrate evil. They are responsible for the crime wave in this country, because they assist, defend, bail and protect the most hardened criminals in this country” • Another said: “Personally, I am not interesled in lawyers. Thate them for the havoc they cause in the sociely. They defend heartless fellows like armed robbers who are evil in the society. Lawyers look flamboyant in the society. They are arrogant 100. They address their colleagues in court as *my learned friend’. Who is not learned? Does it mean if you are not a lawyer you are not learned?”
Others had this to say about lawyers: “Without lawyers, many would have been clamped into jail innocently. Lawyers help to draft the rules, regulations as well as the laws of our land. Most of the nations* constitutions were drafted by lawyers. It is these lawyers too who act as advisers to federal and state governments”
One common feature in these opinions of Nigerians on the role of lawyers in the society is that they are varied, contradictory and irrecon- cilable. We should have simply dismissed the opinions of the public on the maxim of ALLEGANS CONTRARIA NON EST AUDIENDUS meaning, “He who makes statements that are inconsistent is not to be listened to.” But we shall not do so, for what the public needs is enlightenment on the role of the lawyers.
The Lawyer is a social engineer. He owes different duties to different people and/or institutions. A lawyerowes his roles and duties to the court, his profession, his clients, his community and himself.
The object of law in a society is to render to each man his dues hence we have the maxims JUSTITIA NEMININEGANDA EST and JUSTITIA MINIBUS, meaning: “Justice is to be denied to none and justice to all respectively This justice is dispensed in a law court where lawyers and judges are ministers in the temple of justice. In order to attain a just decision in any given case, an atmosphere of peace, respect, trust and fraterity must prevail in the court. To this end, it is the duty of a lawyer to respect members of the Bench and treat the court with extreme courtesy. He must assist the court to reach a just decision. It is for this same reason that a generous comradeship exists in the legal profession. Judges call one another “My learned brother” while lawyers call one another “My learned friend” This does not, in any way, suggest that lawyers are the only learned people in the society and neither does it make them arrogant. The aim is the promotion of co-operation, friendship and understanding at the bar and above all, an identification with friends involved in the orderly progress of civilisation.
Another important role a lawyer plays in the society, which concerns the public, is his duty to his clients and the community in general. To some people, a lawyer stirs up trouble in order to make money out of such trouble. This is erroneous. A lawyerhas a duty to offer an honest advice to his client before litigation is gone into. Such an advice may or may not be palatable to his client. It is not every case that a lawyer rushes to defend in a law court. He has a duty to, and infact does promote settlement out of court.
In the community, lawyers are watch-dogs with regards to the freedom and rights of man. They make the skills of their legal knowledge available to the individual members of their community by legal advice or through legal aid. Cases abound about lawyers who offer free services to clients in their bid to protect individual liberty threatened by executive abuse. Most of the reforms in our laws are championed by lawyers. They also offer legal advice to govemment, and different parastatals.
This, in a nutshell, is the role of lawyers in a society. It is difficult to imagine a society without law or with law but without lawyers to interprete them.