Spotlight: Restriction on Advertising for Nigerian Lawyers, Rule 39, RPC


‘The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.’ Albert Einstein


39. (1) Subject to paragraph (2) and (3) of this rule a lawyer may engage in any advertising or promotion in connection with his practice of the law, provided:
(a) it is fair and proper in all the circumstances
(b) it complies with the provisions of these Rules
(2) A lawyer shall not engage or be involved in any advertising or promotion of his practice of the law which –
(a) is inaccurate or likely to mislead;
(b) is likely to diminish public confidence in the legal profession or the Administration of Justice, or otherwise bring the legal profession into disrepute;
(c) makes comparison with or criticizes other lawyers or other professions or professionals;
(d) includes statement about the quality of the lawyer’s work, the size of success of his practice or his success rate; or
(e) is so frequent or obstructive as to cause annoyances to those to whom it is directed.
(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1) of this rule, a lawyer shall not solicit professional employment either directly or indirectly –
(a) by circulars, handbills, advertisement, through touts or by personal communication or interview.
(b) by furnishing, permitting or inspiring newspaper, radio or television comments in relation to his practice of the law;
(c) by procuring his photograph to be published in connection with matters in which he has been or is engaged, or concerning the manner of their conduct, the magnitude of the interest involved or the importance of the lawyer’s position;
(d) by permitting or inspiring sound recordings in relation to his practice of law; or
(e) by such similar self-aggrandisment.

(4) Nothing in this rule shall preclude a lawyer from publishing in a reputable law List or Law Directory, a brief biographical or informative data of himself, including all or any of the following matters;
(a) his name or names of his professional association;
(b) his address, telephone number, telex number, e-mail address etc.
(c) the school, colleges or other institutions attended with dates of graduation, degree and other educational or academic qualifications or distinctions;
(d) date and place of birth and admission to practice law;
(e) any public or quasi-public office, post of honour, legal authorship, etc;
(f) any legal teaching position;
(g) any National Honour;
(h) membership and office in the Bar Association and duties thereon; and
(i) any position held in legal scientific societies


The excitement resident in my heart, the rush of blood in my veins, the prospect of someday joining the ranks of these silver-bearded, legalese-rapping, polished and robbed luminaries at the Bar…all were too huge a sight to handle. I mean, I’m sure you did the same. Swallowing everything hook, line and sinker. The famous examinations were only a few month away and you needed desperately to know all the rules. So there was no time to query this law or that. Just CRAM!


So I read the provisions of Rule 39 of the RPC (Rules of Professional Conduct) with some reverence and gratitude to the draftsmen who put together the rules. Back then in 2010, anything which maximized the ‘prestige’ of the Legal Profession in my eyes and mind was great. Lawyers are known for big, pregnant words so with every opportunity we inflicted the pain on innocent hearers. We were pushed to look confident so gradually we confused confidence with arrogance and dropped the former somewhere along the line.

But I like to think the most important part of our training was the breeding of a thinking and inquisitive generation. A group of highly-intelligent individuals with eyes attentive to details, and minds structured to probe. Indeed, the development of the law is highly dependent on a thinking generation, an innovative set of legal creators firm enough to brave new expeditions.

Rule 39 prohibits advertising by Nigerian lawyers. Don’t let the first subsection fool you: ‘subject to paragraphs (2) and (3) of this rule, a lawyer may engage in any advertising or promotion in connection with his practice of the law…’ Read that whole provision in concert and you’ll come off with that realization – if you haven’t already.

Now, I wish I had torn off that portion and eaten it.

Our law is largely a representation of the UK Law, huge portions having been copied, adapted, and adjusted simply to give a semblance of a standardized system. Admittedly, many parts have been modified to represent a truly Nigerian system, but there’s still much to do. And in this regard, I point a finger at the law regarding advertising.

The law is moribund, archaic and needs to be changed. The brakes and restriction should spell the word ‘modesty’ clearly. Why do we allow law firms to develop and maintain websites, on which pages we can brag endlessly about which job we took, who we have represented, what skills we possess which make us the ‘Number 1 provider…’ of such and such, and we still believe we can maintain this law? I would like to equate this with bathing one hand because of the traditional dirt it has acquired over many years of practice and positioning it to meet new standards; whilst leaving the other hand to rot away in merciless neglect.

The global landscape of the law has changed, as we all know it. Legal marketing is acquiring a respected status. It is dictating the tune of many agreements and legal engagements and paving the way for the approaching future. We cannot afford to be left behind. This ought to change, as well as a host of other things.

What are your thoughts?