By Joseph Sherman, Editor-in-Chief, Salone Monitor, Washington, DC
This question has become the talk of Diasporans who have been duped, used and abused by lawyers in Sierra Leone and other professionals in their efforts to contribute to the recovery of Sierra Leone’s economy and infrastructure. There have been numerous complaints from people in the Diaspora and disappointments and lack of trust from some lawyers in Sierra Leone to exercise their professional duties towards their clients in the Diaspora who are laboring day and night to get things done in Sierra Leone through these bogus lawyers but to no avail.
One case in point is a transaction which Lola Johnson of the United States entered with one self-styled lawyer in Freetown by the name of Thomas Beah. After Ms. Lola spent millions of Leones to have things done for her through Mr. Thomas Beah, today she is left in state of frustration and disparity as Mr. Thomas Beah has become mute, incommunicado and unreachable.
In order to show to the public the frustration, Ms. Lola Johnson is going through she has gone on social media (Face book), to vent out her anger against Lawyer Thomas Beah who has become invisible since he usurp the million oof Leones from his client. Here is Ms. Lola Johnson communication with Mr. Thomas Beah on face book:
“Please can someone who know Lawyer Thomas Beah in Freetown tell him to pick my calls. I am lost in words; I can’t imagine how a lawyer could behave in such a manner. I secure some piece of land in Freetown for my orphanage project this had cost me so much that even when I was without a job I still manage to send money for this project. Now the whole process had got to the point that I needed to register the land having paid Lawyer Thomas Beah and his & Co George Banya whom I came to know through Kalilu Totangi. Lawyer charged me eight million Leone to do the conveyance and for registration. I already paid six million, seven hundred to this lawyer as part of his fees and sent the balance of one million three hundred which he refused to collect from lawyer Denise Kamara. I also sent the NRA fees through this same lawyer Thomas Beah but ever since I sent the money Lawyer Thomas Beah don’t pick my calls neither will he call back. At least for professional conduct, he should update me. My phone does records so I am having recording of the feedback I get from him every time I call. I did all I did for the love I have for mama Salone. But we have some enemies of progress who would want to discourage our efforts. But as for me I will never give up.” #Orphansaffairsborthersme.
Ethical Standard at Stake with some Sierra Leone Lawyers
The sad truth is becoming more and more apparent; the law profession in Sierra Leone has seen a steady decline by casting aside established traditions and canons of professional ethics that evolved over centuries …When we speak of the decline in “ethical” standards, we should not use the term ‘ethics’ to mean only compliance with the Ten Commandments or
other standards of common, basic morality…..A lawyer can adhere to all these requirements and still fail to meet the standards of a true profession, standards calling for fearless advocacy within established canons of service.
A commitment to legal ethics involves a commitment to the introduction of Codes of Ethics or Standards of Professional Practice. An example is the standards reflected in the International Bar Association General Principles of Ethics. However, not all jurisdictions have Professional Codes and not all of those that do give sufficient attention to their enforcement. In any case, the lawyer who acts in accordance with a professional code of ethics may still be engaging in unethical practice.
So why is ethics important to the practice of law?
First, because lawyers are integral to the working-out of the law and the Rule of Law itself is founded on principles of justice, fairness and equity. If lawyers do not adhere and promote these ethical principles then the law will fall into disrepute and people will resort to alternative means of resolving conflict. The Rule of Law will fail with a rise of public discontent.
Second, lawyers are professionals. This concept conveys the notion that issues of ethical responsibility and duty are an inherent part of the legal profession. It has been said that a profession’s most valuable asset is its collective reputation and the confidence which that inspires. The legal profession especially must have the confidence of the community. Justice Kirby of the Australian High Court once noted:
The challenge before the legal profession….is to resolve the basic paradoxes which it faces….To reorganize itself in such a way as to provide more effective, real and affordable access to legal advice and representation by ordinary citizens. To preserve and where necessary, to defend the best of the old rules requiring honesty, fidelity loyalty, diligence, competence and dispassion in the service of clients, above mere self-interest and specifically above commercial self-advantage.
And finally because lawyers are a privileged class for only lawyers can, for reward, take on the causes of others and bring them before the courts.
The public must be able to have confidence in the legal profession and the administration of justice. To this end it is desirable that clearly articulated rules of conduct are introduced – not only so that the profession is aware of their ethical obligations but also because this is in the public interest. In the present framework it would be exceedingly difficult and most unlikely for a lawyer who is abusing their position of trust or who is in breach of their ethical obligations to their client to be disciplined. In most cases the client will be unaware that what has happened is a breach of professional ethics. In other cases, without clear Rules or guidelines, misconduct, unless gross and obvious, will go unnoticed and unpunished.
Professional Codes of Ethics are one of the most important characteristics of a profession.
Maintaining Integrity and Competence of the Legal Profession.
A lawyer is subject to discipline if the lawyer has made a materially false statement in, or has deliberately failed to disclose a material fact requested in connection with, the lawyer’s application for admission to the bar.
A lawyer or law firm shall not:
- Engage in illegal conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.
- Engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation..
- Engage in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer.
There is a growing concern over the subordination of service and professionalism to profit, personal aims and ambitions. We need to remind ourselves of the honorable nature of the profession otherwise there is little point talking about ethics. It is the substance and not the form that matters here. Comprehensive Codes of Ethics do not guarantee ethical practice; rather, this lies in the fundamental nature of being ‘called to the Bar’.
It is to be borne in mind that all barristers are members of a profession as distinct from being engaged in a trade. A trade or business is an occupation or calling in which the primary object is the pursuit of pecuniary gain. Honesty and honorable dealing are, of course, expected from every man, whether he is engaged in professional practice or in any other gainful occupation. But in a profession, pecuniary success is not the only goal. Service is the ideal, and the earning of remuneration must always be subservient to this main purpose”