Justice Minister and Attorney General Fredrick Cherue last Friday advised people seeking legal redress not to hire lawyers who do not have offices or are not connected to any law firm.
Cherue said the Ministry of Justice now has a policy not to deal with “lawyers who are using handbags as their offices.”
Minister Cherue sounded the warning when he dedicated the office of the Heritage Partners and Associates (HPA) Law Firm.
“This is why we are here to congratulate Counselor Negbalee Warner for the office, because if he has a client you know exactly where to find the lawyer,” the Justice Minister noted.
“Sometimes lawyers come to court to represent a client and when we agree to release that person into the lawyer’s care, it becomes very difficult to find that particular lawyer or their client when they are needed by the court.
“We want to release people to their lawyers to come back to court any time we need them, but it is now difficult because some lawyers don’t belong to law firms and so if they are not well-known we are unable to find them later.
“It is a very different thing for the Ministry to ask a judge to release an individual to a lawyer without an office.”
The Justice Minister noted that if lawyers are the moral conscience of society, “then to practice law must be done in an organized manner.”
According to Cherue, to practice law in an organized way one must have a decent building or place where their clients can easily locate them, and where their colleagues can consult with them.
“You have to consult your colleagues about the position you are taking in a particular case, but if you do not have an office, then who are you going to discuss your client’s case with?” the Attorney General wondered.
In his remarks, former Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh said despite all the allegations against lawyers, the law is the only thing that has succeeded in maintaining peace, security and stability in the country.
Cllr. Sannoh noted that the law is not perfect, “even God knows that, but, that is the only system that we have to maintain law and order. And it has kept the peace; it has settled violence.”
He said lawyers are critical to the maintenance of law and order, for which lawyers have a responsibility to make the law respectable.
“It is more than just wearing the gown and going court. It is about how to make the law respectable,” the former Attorney General stated.
“We have more 200 lawyers in this small country, so to make the law respectable means we have to organize our practice in a decent manner by building an office or a law firm,” he said.
Stressing on the law that prevents non Liberians from practicing law in the country, Cllr. Sannoh observed that that law “is not holding.”
“Non Liberians cannot practice in our country, but there is the issue in the country when lawyers who are not Liberians or not licensed are rendering legal services,” the former Justice Minister indicated.
“The investors that come to our country come with their lawyers that provide legal services on their behalf,” Sannoh indicated, adding, “We have to build our capacity for them to compare us with their lawyers.”
Giving an overview of the HPA earlier, Cllr. Negbalee Warner said his entity is six years in the making.
The building has offices for over 30 lawyers and a conference hall among other facilities to accommodate their clients.
According to Warner, in the six-year period they sent four lawyers for studies abroad who successfully returned with Master’s degrees in law.
He disclosed that HPA started with only one lawyer and now has up to 10.