While at the Nigerian Law School, all lawyers were drilled daily on the need to be fit and proper. Not only are lawyers meant to be fit and proper in their practice but also in private life as well. As legal practitioners and business persons, the need for accountability to clients is an important part of being fit and proper.
Lawyers spend a lot of time working closely with and for clients to solve complex issues, but are also tasked with the foolproof protection of secure information and the timely execution of a myriad of things. The balance of these needs is at the crux of every legal practice and this is where firm culture comes into play.
According to Gyi Tsakalakis in her article, How to Implement Accountability in a Law Firm, accountability and firm culture are inextricably intertwined and every lawyer and law firm is accountable for living to your values.
It is only when individuals feel responsible for upholding key standards of excellent client communication, stringent protection of information, and timely and foolproof execution of tasks that law firms are able to maintain the high quality of work that is expected from lawyers.
In the Lawyer’s Ultimate Guide to Accountability in the Workplace, published by Grayhound in 2017, three main reasons are listed on why accountability is important for lawyers.
The first is security. The daily operations of a law office involve constant management of secure and private information. In order to develop a tight lid on information security, individual lawyers must first believe and buy into a general culture of confidentiality, and then the law office must enforce a culture of accountability at the individual level to make it real.
The second main reason that accountability is important for lawyers is reputation. Lawyers operate in a professional world where reputation is key to acquiring and maintaining clients, as well as working with fellow lawyers. Establishing a reputation for client confidentiality, responsibly meeting deadlines, and managing client needs is crucial in any law office.
Finally, accountability is crucial for law firms because it helps manage stress. Few professional offices have to deal with as many moving pieces as law firms. Trying to keep track of client needs, deadlines, new business, internal projects can stress out any lawyer.
It is important that as lawyers, accountability in our practice should be a core value of every lawyer and law firm. It is one of the ways we remain fit and proper.
Caroline Ibharuneafe, Mrs.
Past Vice – Chairman, NBA Ikeja)