By virtue of rule 7(3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the business of selling land is a trade or business incompatible with the practice of law. They disclosed that any lawyer caught in such act will be thoroughly dealt with. They sighted the example of the case of NBA v Ibebunjo (2013) 18 NWLR (Pt.1386).
In this case, the respondent was clearly doing illegal business to sell land. It is clear beyond doubt that the business of selling land is a trade or business incompatible with the practice of law.
Rule 7(3) clearly provides the category of business that is compatible with the practice of law. From what we have reproduced above, the respondent was clearly playing with fire when he was using the platform of his legal practice to sell land. The justice of this case demands that we allow him to go full time into his main business of selling of land and to leave the business of practicing law to those who are bona fide legal practitioners.”
DNL Partners reported that lawyers who can be caught by the rule against selling of land are those who combine same with their legal practices. Those who do not run a law firm or employed as Lawyers may not be caught by this rule. That is, though they are lawyers by training, they do not identify themselves as such, but as real estate practitioners. After all, the eleventh commandment (as enacted by man) is, thou shall not be caught”
NREH made further investigations and spoke with Barrister Tayo Abadariki who confirmed this to be true. He said: “Lawyers must not engage in any other trade or business, but it is also true that Agreements for land transactions are to be drafted and franked by lawyers.
The term “engaging in a trade or business in the context of RPC is different from guiding your client with steps to take when he or she wants to buy or sell a property so as not to fall into the trap of fraudsters.
“In summary, there is always a way around that section of the RPC”
“When there are land transactions and a lawyer drafts and franks the agreement, the lawyer is entitled to 10% of the consideration, in sum cases 5”.
“In most cases when agents are told to sell the same, they earn 5% or more as the case may be”
“So are lawyers agents? No, but they earn what agents earn or more”
“ A lawyer is not stopped from giving such property to an estate agent who would market such property on behalf of the Lawyers client”
Can we call it a trade? No. It is simply what I call “acting in the best interest of your client”
Barrister Chuks Okoriokwe also spoke with NREH and he said: “We are only to prepare the documentation and earn our legal fees from there but now many want to earn from both sides”
“You solicit to get clients and also prepare the documents. That way, you earn agency commission as well as legal fees”.
“Well, if caught, one may be debarred. It should be avoided”.