…Signs MoU with LRA to license lawyers
As though he and other well schooled legal practitioners are weary of persistent reports of law school drop-outs and other persons masquerading as lawyers in Liberia, Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe has warned the ‘fake lawyers’ to desist immediately or face the wrath of the law.
Cllr. Gongloe, who is the President of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA), spoke on Tuesday, November 26 against courts allowing some of those ‘fake lawyers’ to represent clients across the country.
He also warned those who are posing as lawyers and practicing before courts to desist immediately or face the wrath of the LNBA, which considers the matter as “criminal.”
Cllr. Gongloe said to contain non-lawyers practicing in the courtrooms, means that the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) will have to assign license to any of the potential applicants, who have met all requirements to be admitted into a local bar.
Gongloe said the LRA is the only entity that was issuing professional licenses to people, after collecting an amount of US$100 as the annual and professional fees; some of them, according to Gongloe, were posing as lawyers, whereas they were not, until they were even arrested.
Gongloe continues, “Our legal profession is a respectable one and, as such, there are people wearing coat-suits or black gowns masquerading about the premises of the courtrooms as lawyers, “because those people who paid their hard earned US$100 annual professional license fees to the LRA without the LRA establishing any monitoring mechanism to ensure that they are actually lawyers.”
Gongloe said that for a person to practice as a lawyer in court, he/she must have obtained a first degree from any recognized universities, thereafter, such individual enrolled at any law schools, where the person should study for over three years to obtain a degree in law.
“That does not also qualify a person as a lawyer, because upon graduation, that individual should sit the test offered by the LNBA to be qualified as an Attorney-at-Law before you can practice as a lawyer,” Gongloe added.
Gongloe made the assertion at the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the LNBA and the LRA at the headquarters of the LRA, in Paynesville.
The MoU is an attempt to strengthen the professional standard of the practice of law in the country through collaboration and improve the working relationship with the LRA.
It also requests the LRA to delegate to the LNBA its authority to issue a professional license to lawyers and to enable the LNBA to prevent non-lawyers from paying license fees and ensure that only lawyers in good standing with the LNBA are eligible to pay professional license fees to the LRA.
Gongloe noted that in the past people would only display a copy of the LRA’s receipt of US$100, indicating that they have paid professional fees, making them lawyers that are qualified to practice before the court.
“They just come and say they are lawyers, after paying professional license fees of US$100. We will make this practice to stop, because we are elevating our profession in the eyes of the general public and that people who are lawyers will actually represent the legal interest of our people,” Gongloe said, adding, “One of the ways in doing it is for the LNBA to issue the license and the LRA collects the US$100.”
In his response, the LRA Commissioner-General, Thomas Doe Nah, lauded the LNBA for the proposal that led to the signing of the MoU that now gives the LNBA to the legal right to issue licenses to qualified lawyers, after paying the US$100 as annual professional fees.
Nah said, the proposal was in the right direction for the LRA to collect the license fees and the LNBA issued the license to qualified lawyers.
“This proposal will give the right people the opportunity to practice law in the country and defend the legal interest of our taxpayers, who have paid their taxes and should be provided with the duly legal representation,” Nah noted.
Nah used the occasion to inform the leadership of the LNBA about the plan to establish a partnership with the LNBA.
According to the MoU, lawyers are required to pay their annual fees to the LRA and obtain a valid receipt from the LRA.
“Each lawyer shall present to the LNBA the original copy of the receipt issued by the LRA as confirmation that he or she has paid his or her professional license fees to the LRA,” the MoU stated.
The document said, upon the presentation of a valid receipt issued a lawyer by the LRA, the LNBA shall issue a professional license to him or her, once it verifies that his or her name appears on its listing of lawyers in good standing.
“The LNBA shall assign license number and issue license to each licensee who made payment to the LRA and said license number shall remain constant for the life of each licensee,” the MoU says.
The document also says that the said license number issued by the LNBA shall be separate from the LRA receipt number or TIN Number.
According to the document, the LNBA shall furnish the LRA, frequently and periodically, with a listing of lawyers who have been issued their licenses.
Meanwhile, the LRA shall issue a tax identification numbers to lawyers desirous to pay for a professional license. “The LRA, will issue the government [LRA] tax payment treasury receipt for each payment by lawyers and the LRA will periodically furnish the LNBA with the list of lawyers who have paid their professional fees,” the MoU among others said.