Congrats on your recent admission to the bar. Finally, after so many years of unenviable studies you’ve now landed your Holy Grail (a revered license to practice law). And while you are still basking in the euphoria of your triumph, we thought it worthwhile to join you in your celebrations by drawing your attention to the 7 easiest ways you can lose your law license. Or you didn’t you know you could get disbarred? Let’s skip to the best part.
According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th edition, disbarment means “The action of expelling a lawyer from the bar or from the practice of law, usually because of some disciplinary violation. Although disbarment is typically a permanent removal from the practice of law, in some jurisdictions, a disbarred attorney may (after a certain period) petition for readmission.”
So the first question someone might ask would be “if you get disbarred, does your law degree get nullified?”. The answer is “no”. Your law degree whether a US JD or the L.L.B is a degree awarded by a university, and has got nothing to do with your admission to the bar. Your law degree still stands and cannot be withdrawn simply because you have been disbarred.
Here are the 7 things you mustn’t be involved in as a lawyer that could get a lawyer disbarred. In Nigeria, these have been subsumed under “infamous conduct in any professional respect”
(1) Moral Turpitude.
The Black’s Law Dictionary defines moral turpitude as “conduct that is contrary to justice, honesty, or morality. In the area of legal ethics, offenses involving moral turpitude- such as fraud or breach of trust traditionally make a person unfit to practice law”. This is as good as it gets. A crime of this nature will reflect adversely on the lawyer’s honesty and character fitness to be a lawyer.
(2) Client theft
As a lawyer, never mess with client’s money in your possession or trust account. If you do client will go Sherlock on you and ask for their pound of flesh in your disbarment even where you may have done restitution. If you are ever cash strapped burrow money elsewhere and never from your clients account
(3) Co-mingling of trust account funds (financial fraud)
Lawyers usually hold clients’ money in the course of rendering legal services, and this requires that the money be kept in an exclusive account opened in the client’s name. A lawyer may get disbarred for transferring money from the client’s trust account to his operating account.
(4) Conviction in an offense for which punishment is imprisonment.
Under the extent laws in Nigeria, a lawyer whose name is on the roll of legal practitioners may get disbarred if he is convicted by any court in Nigeria having power to impose a sentence of imprisonment or the offense is incompatible with the status of a legal practitioner.
(5) Fraudulent enrollment.
Under this head you may get disbarred if you acquired your law license fraudulently or without passing the necessary bar qualifying exams. Don’t be a Mike Ross
(6) Bar Association matters
A lawyer called to bar is subject to the rules of conduct governing members of the bar within his jurisdiction. This may include payment of the mandated annual practicing fees and continuing education obligations. Where a lawyer refuses compliance with any of the above, then he may get disbarred.
(7) Misconduct not amounting to infamous conduct.
This is a blanket word for several less serious misconducts that may only attract suspension from practice and in rare cases admonition from the Bar. An example would be showing disrespect to the officers of the court or the bench in a subsisting case (this may also amount to contempt of court, a sanctionable offense in itself).
Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Law Student Hub. He is an LL.B. Law graduate from the University of Benin, Nigeria. He’s a life enthusiast, a budding writer and internet entrepreneur. Patrick is deeply passionate about law and research and has inspired many with his thought-provoking articles. To get in touch, follow him on social media.