This interview addresses the issue of buying and selling lands by Lawyers
Ezra .A. Akintonde is a legal practitioner with over 6 years of experience in Defamation, Tourism & Hospitality, Corporate & Commercial as well as Criminal Litigation. He is a graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State where he bagged an LL.B (Honours) degree.
He is company secretary to more than eight companies and is well versed with legal and regulatory requirements of corporate organizations. Between 2012 and 2014, he served as a key member in organizing the G.M Ibru & Co Seminars on Defamation Law and Seminar on Tourism and Hospitality Law.
- 0.1 NREH: What pitched your interest to go into real estate?
- 0.2 NREH: How have you been able to combine it (real estate) with your profession as a Lawyer?
- 0.3 NREH: Are you of the opinion that Doctors are treated better or are more respected than lawyers in Nigeria?
- 0.4 NREH: Can a lawyer be a real estate agent?
- 0.5 NREH: Rule 7(3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct states that the business of selling land is a trade or business incompatible with the practice of law. What’s your take on this?
- 1 As a matter of fact, the business of buying and selling Lands or buying and selling generally is prohibited for practicing lawyers.
NREH: What pitched your interest to go into real estate?
Barrister Ezra: Real Estate has always been one of the areas that caught my attention while I was young. While studying law at Olabisi Onbanjo University, I was introduced to real estate law as a subject. When I was in school, it was called Land Law. It was and is still a very interesting subject for me. I loved it better when it was introduced again in law school as property law practice. I love real estate law so much because it is the business of providing shelter for humans and shelter is one of the basic needs of every human. I had to take up real estate briefs in order to help combat the deterioration currently experienced in the real estate sector. Another reason is to help resolve disputes between landlords and tenants and also to help prevent future adverse occurrences by providing sound real estate advisory services.
NREH: How have you been able to combine it (real estate) with your profession as a Lawyer?
Barrister Ezra: As a lawyer, real estate law and practice are one of the basic areas I find quite intriguing. For me, it’s more of a passion than a job. My work as a lawyer is complementary to real estate practice.
According to the Land Instrument Preparation Laws of the Various states, Lawyers are exclusively empowered to draft land documents such as Deed of Assignment, Lease Agreement and more. So you see, it is part of my duty as a lawyer to ensure that property transactions are well documented. (smiles).
My firm also advises clients on real estate matters and I always take active roles during such occasions.
So I will say it’s not been difficult combining real estate practice with my job as a lawyer.
NREH: Are you of the opinion that Doctors are treated better or are more respected than lawyers in Nigeria?
Barrister Ezra: Each profession has its own ups and downs. I believe that lawyers deserve a lot more respect than they are currently being accorded. Lawyers hold the fabrics of the society together. They have to interface and provide services to and in every organization. Yes, I believe doctors are being treated better than lawyers in terms of wages and salaries. I may not be able to provide the accurate statistics off hand but take for instance a lawyer working in the Ministry of Justice and a Doctor working in one of the Government Hospitals. If you look at what both of them earn, you will see that there is a huge disparity.
NREH: Can a lawyer be a real estate agent?
Barrister Ezra: Being a lawyer doesn’t stop you from practicing other professions. Yes, as a lawyer you can engage in real estate agency. I have friends who branched into other practices after they were called to bar. Lawyers are everywhere. They are in politics, the media, military, and what have you. One typical example I will like to give is Falz, popular musician and son of Femi Falana SAN. Although Falz is a lawyer, he, however, left the legal profession and went into music as a full-time career.
Why then can’t lawyers be in real estate business? There are lawyers who have a degree in estate management.
However, as a lawyer, you cannot practice as a legal practitioner while also engaging in other businesses. One has to give way for the other.
NREH: Rule 7(3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct states that the business of selling land is a trade or business incompatible with the practice of law.
What’s your take on this?
Barrister Ezra: Well, the rule is binding on all lawyers that are practicing the profession. According to the Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers, certain businesses are incompatible with your status as a lawyer. If you are practicing as a legal practitioner, you are not expected to engage in the business of selling land. What the rule is trying to prevent is a situation where law firms will start engaging in buying and selling of lands as a business. If you want to go into the business of buying and selling lands then you will be required to put aside your law practice. You can’t be an active legal practitioner and still be selling land through your law firm.
However, in a situation whereby your client engages you in such a transaction, you can be of help to dispose of the client’s property. You can take all steps necessary for such disposals including advertising and marketing of the property. This is clearly different from a lawyer buying and selling land just to make profit.
As a matter of fact, the business of buying and selling Lands or buying and selling generally is prohibited for practicing lawyers.
If however, you are a lawyer who has chosen not to practice then you can be engaged in whatever business you want.
NREH: With the advent of technology, do you think real estate agents will soon go into extinction?
Barrister Ezra: Many professions will become obsolete, not just real estate agents. Bankers, Teachers, Drivers, Store attendants, Secretaries and a lot more and even doctors, mechanics, but we are looking between ten to twenty years from now.
NREH: If you have the opportunity to choose between Abuja and Lagos to continue your practice, which would you go for?
Barrister Ezra: I’ve heard that Abuja is the city of the biggest fishes in the river but when compared to Lagos, there is more for a lawyer in Lagos than in Abuja. If I have the same briefs in Abuja as I have in Lagos, why not? I will prefer Abuja.
NREH: How do you relax?
Barrister Ezra: I see a lot of movies because I learn a lot while getting entertained. I also like to be on the internet watching YouTube videos. Occasionally I hang out with friends and family.