It has become rampant
to see legal practitioners tout their perceived success rates with regards to
cases they have handled in courts during press interviews, while discussing
with prospective clients, on law office websites etc.

Some lawyers would
even say they have won a certain number of cases, lost others, and drawn a few;
and at other times display graphical or pictorial representations of their
success rates on law office websites and in other publications. This practice
is even more disturbing because renowned and widely celebrated legal
practitioners are also complicit.

The result is that
impressionable lawyers and especially the young wigs have been left with a
notion of law practice that if not corrected may lead to a complete failure of
the administration of justice in Nigeria. This notion encourages a defence
lawyer to believe that it is only when his client is discharged and acquitted
that he has won the case, or a prosecutor to equate conviction of a defendant
to a successful rendition of his legal service. This notion has led many legal
practitioners to do everything possible, including manufacturing evidence,
encouraging perjury, and commission of crimes, in a bid to ensure they get
judgments favourable to their clients.  


The Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal
Practitioners (RPC), 2007
, in expressing the general responsibility of a
lawyer in Rule 1 states that:

A lawyer shall uphold and
observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice
, maintain
a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct
which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner. (Underlining mine for emphasis)

Every responsible
lawyer admits that obeisance to the rule of law and fostering the cause of
justice is the most fundamental duty of a legal practitioner. In fact the Court
of Appeal put it better in PCN v. Lamlex (Pharmacy) (Nig.) Ltd. &
when it stated as follows:

I need to reiterate the cardinal
principle that counsel are ministers in the temple of justice and should
therefore ensure that they stay on the side of justice at all times. It is the
duty of counsel to present the case of his client to the best of his ability
but the duty and loyalty of counsel does not extend beyond presenting the
client’s case within the law and rule of professional ethics. Counsel owe a
higher duty to the cause of justice.

It therefore follows
that a legal practitioner in rendering services to a client must ensure that he
is within the bounds of the law at all times.  A lawyer is therefore not permitted, during
representation of a client, to aid or participate in any unlawful conduct, to give
advice which he knows is capable of causing breach of the law, and to conceal
any fact or evidence in proof thereof which he knows will aid the
administration of justice, even if such fact or evidence does not support his
See Obeten
v. State (2007) ALL FWLR (Pt. 376) 711
and Co-operative and Commerce Bank (Nigeria) PLC. v. Okpala & Anor
(1997) LPELR-6278 (CA)

Where, for example, a
client approaches a lawyer and states that he committed an offence and intends
to plead guilty during his arraignment, such a lawyer if he appreciates the
hallowed duty he has in fostering the cause of justice, knows that his duty in
rendering professional services to such a client does not include prompting the
client to enter a plea of “not guilty”, and conjuring facts or employing delay
tactics to frustrate the administration of justice. Abiru J.C.A. in Salihu v. Gana & Ors[iii]
observed instructively that “lawyers who
misuse their knowledge of the law and legal procedure to stultify the process
of administration of justice are a disappointment and constitute a clog to the
progress of the legal profession.”

In a circumstance
where a court of law convicts a defendant flowing from his plea of “guilty”
during arraignment, and upon being satisfied that such a plea is consistent
with the facts of the case, the lawyer who represented such a defendant cannot properly
be said to have lost the case.

In fact, a lawyer
cannot win or lose a case. How could he when the case in the first place was
never his? The Court of Appeal and Supreme have reiterated time and again that
counsel qua advocate is an expert of the law and the facts of the case belong
solely to his client. See Afribank Nigeria PLC v. Homelux Construction
Company LTD & Anor (2008) LPELR-9020 (CA)
and Alhaji Kachalla Musa v. AG Taraba State & Anor (2014) LPELR-24183

The RPC also
stipulates that “Where an accused person
discloses facts which clearly and credibly show his guilt, the lawyer shall not
present any evidence inconsistent with those facts and shall not offer any
testimony which he knows to be false”.[iv]

A legal practitioner
has the responsibility, as master of law, to give legal advice to his clients
and strictly apply the law to the facts of a client’s case. In circumstances
where it is apparent to a lawyer that his client’s case is frivolous or that
the chances of his client succeeding are extremely remote, he has a
responsibility of informing the client of the uselessness of pursuing such a
course in other to save his client from unnecessary expenses; and to save the
time of the courts. See MAGIT v. University of Agriculture, Makurdi
& Ors (2005) LPELR-1816 (SC)
Jegede v. Afe & Anor (2017)
LPELR-43232 (CA)
and Okeke & Ors v. Okoli & Ors (1999)
LPELR-6638 (CA)


A legal practitioner
shall not engage or be involved in any advertising or promotion of his practice
of the law which makes comparison with other lawyers or includes any statement
as to the size of or success of his practice and his success rate.[v]

The practice by some
lawyers in publicly portraying success rates on the basis of the favourability or
otherwise of court judgments in respect of matters they handle for their
clients is a breach of the rules and etiquettes regulating the conduct of legal
practitioners in Nigeria. It cannot be overemphasized that the delicate nature
of law practice is sober and a responsible lawyer must always contemplate the
duties he owes to his clients, colleagues, the court and most importantly- the
cause of justice, in all his professional dealings.


A legal practitioner
is always successful in the conduct of a client’s case when he devotedly and
dedicatedly applies the law to the facts of his client’s case irrespective of
the ruling or judgment of the court.

Lawyers, and indeed
law students must be reminded that a good lawyer should always be dispassionate
about the facts of cases presented to him by clients. A lawyer is only
permitted in the conduct of a case to be impassioned about the law and legal arguments
he avails a court vis-à-vis the facts of his client’s case. Where this is case,
the lawyer is always successful as his duties transcend the prosecution of a
mere brief from a client but extends to aiding the hallowed courts effect God’s
justice on earth.  

Henry Chibuike Ugwu

(2018) LPELR-44686 (CA) Per Bolaji-Yusuff, J.C.A. (Pp. 32, paras. B).
See generally Rule 15, RPC, 2007.
(2014) LPELR-23069 (CA).
Rule 37(3), RPC. See also Rules 37(4)-(6).
Rule 39(2)(c) & (d), RPC.