withdraw its newspaper publication of July 2, 2020, in which it offered to give legal advice to small and medium scale business owners and other members of the public.
In a letter addressed to the General Counsel/Legal Adviser of the bank, Raymond Mgbeokwere, the association asked the bank “to immediately cease and desist from this unlawful and unauthorised offer of legal services to SMEs or to the public under any guise.”
The letter, dated July 3, 2020, and signed by the Chairman of the NBA-Section on Legal Practice, Olusegun Abimbola, and the Secretary, Tonye Krukrubo, stated that the bank,not being listed on Supreme Court’s roll of lawyers, lacked the competence to offer legal advice.
It read in part, “First Bank is not a legal practitioner with the definition of the provision of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L.11, Laws of the Federation, 2004. Section 2(1) of the LPA provides that a person shall be entitled to practise as a barrister and solicitor if, and only if, his name is on the rolls of lawyers at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“The question then is in what capacity is First Bank offering the public or SMEs the opportunity to get legal advice for their business?”
The association added in the letter shared with journalists on Tuesday that the publication by the bank also violated the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners 2007, which according to it, bars all lawyers “from aiding non-lawyers in the illegal practice of law or offer of legal serves.”
It stated that the NBA-Section on Legal Practice had obtained the mandate of the NBA President “to enforce the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act against any company or organisations found to be in breach of this law, hence this notice to your bank.”
It added that enforcement of the LPA could be in the forms of instituting “legal action against the bank as well as initiating disciplinary actions before the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee against legal officers found to be aiding the unauthorised practice of law in breach of the LPA.”