Friday, 28 November 2014
“He who would be his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” (Abraham Lincoln)
The legal profession in Malawi has become an embarrassment. They are deeply involved in Cashgate affairs and there are many instances where actions displayed are no where near expected ethics in the profession. It all boils down to the inability of the profession to manage the self regulation régime provided. This is a sure opportunity for a Government to interfere and institute regulatory regimes to manage a profession that is failing to self-regulate.
What is the main Problem? At the helm of the problem is the weak Law Society of Malawi. Just like in Malawi's political system where mediocrity leadership rules, mature and credible lawyers have left the leadership of this important Association to kindergarten lawyers with no experience and no muscle to discipline colleagues who fall outside prescribed or expected ethics. The Association's governing rules also seem also to be very weak, probably deliberately so to ensure that status quo prevails. Malawian legal fraternity need to re-think of re-engineer the Law Society of Malawi if they are proud of their profession.
Looking at the weak governance regime, new graduating lawyers without or with insignificant experience and no supervision, seem to open legal practices as soon as they are called to the bar. In my considered view, it is like allowing a newly qualified pilot to be a captain of a flight (without supervision) or newly qualified medical doctor opening a hospital and performing all kinds of major surgeries. In UK for example, If you are setting up a firm, one of the managers must be 'qualified to supervise'. If you are setting up as a sole practitioner then you must be 'qualified to supervise'. To be qualified to supervise you must have: been entitled to practise as a lawyer for at least 36 months within the last 10 years; completed a 12 hour management skills training course ; You will also need a practising address in England or Wales. I am not sure what the requirements are in Malawi, but certainly it seems it's free for all.
In last couple of years, the standards of this age-old profession of our "learned" colleagues have deteriorated (to be polite). I am aware of the old problem of embezzlement of clients' money. Of late however, we have heard of allegations where lawyers have register bogus trustees with laundered money; bought property using laundered money, defended clients in court today and next day on trial themselves; over-charged clients; one day defended clients against Government and next day became Government legal advisers on the same cases; joining Government but still writing submissions for clients in cases against Government. Some of these allegations are true others are yet to be confirmed. We also saw the legal profession's bizarre conduct during the May 2014 elections which included those in the judiciary. There was a merry-go-round of injunctions and Judges failing to understand the role of the Electoral body or simply ignoring the electoral law.
Is it not scary that citizen number 1 is in the same profession?