Guarding Justice: Hire Not Persons masquerading as Lawyers

Ever considered why lawyers frown at individuals posing as legal professionals? While encroachment on their livelihood is a factor, let’s forget the lawyers for a moment and look at it from the perspective of consumers of legal services.

Did you know that when you enlist a qualified lawyer, there is recourse for you if things go awry in your lawyer-client relationship?

Let’s pause a little here.

In the client-advocate relationship, while we hope for the best, unforeseen circumstances can arise. Implementing proactive safeguards is essential to address potential complications effectively. Comprehensive risk management strategies benefit both clients and advocates, fostering trust, reliability, and accountability within the legal profession.

Now that we are aligned, let’s explore the multitude of compelling reasons to make you steer clear of hiring unqualified individuals as lawyers in Kenya:

In discussions regarding unqualified individuals posing as lawyers, you must have come across the argument that non-lawyers at times excel in legal matters. These claims unfortunately lack solid data. While unqualified individuals may possess basic legal understanding, they often lack the essential education, training, and expertise required to handle legal matters proficiently. This deficiency can lead to mistakes, omissions, or insufficient representation, putting the outcome of your case at risk.

Unqualified persons are not bound by any ethical codes, they are not officer of the court and thus may not adhere to the ethical standards and professional conduct expected of licensed lawyers. They may engage in unethical practices, such as providing misleading advice, mishandling client funds, or breaching client confidentiality. An unresolved question in this discussion is what recourse is available if an unqualified individual discloses information provided by seekers of legal services.

Entrusting your legal affairs to an unqualified lawyer exposes you to various legal risks. They may give incorrect legal advice, draft flawed legal documents, or fail to protect your interests adequately, leading to potential legal disputes or financial losses. Consider a scenario where a document is drafted without a proper dispute resolution clause, potentially leading to inappropriate, lengthy, and costly dispute resolution processes.

In Kenya, lawyers are disciplined through regulatory bodies, professional associations, and legal procedures to uphold ethical standards and protect the public interest, such as the Advocates Complaints Commission, the Disciplinary Tribunal, and the courts. However, unqualified individuals lack similar oversight, except through court proceedings, potentially leaving dissatisfied clients with limited recourse.

But for qualified lawyers it doesn’t end at disbarment of suspension. Lawyers are mandated to have professional indemnity insurance, which steps in to compensate an aggrieved client. Unlike licensed lawyers, they may not be covered by professional indemnity insurance, making it challenging to recover damages for any harm caused.

Engaging unqualified lawyers undermines the integrity and credibility of the legal profession and the justice system as a whole. It contributes to a lack of trust in legal services and may erode public confidence in the administration of justice.

In some cases, seeking legal assistance from an unqualified individual may constitute unauthorized practice of law, which is illegal and punishable by law. Both clients and unqualified practitioners could

face legal consequences for participating in such activities.

Overall, engaging unqualified lawyers poses significant risks and is not advisable. It is essential to prioritize the expertise, credentials, and professionalism of licensed lawyers to ensure the best possible legal representation and protect your interests effectively.

Written by Stella Amisi Orengo

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