Professional relations with “family and friends”: an ongoing discussion (2)

In part one (1) of this series, I enumerated on two (2) professions namely; medical doctors and educationists their professional relations with “family and friends”. In this final part of the series, I will consider two (2) other professions namely; lawyers and police officers and their professional relations to family and friends.

  1. Lawyers

The skill of a lawyer is needed in many facets of life. The growing awareness for people to demand their right keep making the lawyer more relevant in society. Even for the most spiritual organisations that will defer litigations, they are all getting involved to demand their rights. In Ghana, the importance of the legal profession keeps growing by the day. The growing democracy of Ghana requires that more lawyers are trained to support institutions in the interpretation of the laws and many more as will be required.

Sadly, the case of legal education in Ghana has not turned out the way as known and expected. The commentary in recent times is one that has a telling effect on a profession that thrives so much on ethics. The leakage of examination questions in the last entrance examination into the professional law course has hugely dented the otherwise enviable professions and causing many to be asking questions bothering on the sincerity of its professionals.

The legal profession is one that acknowledges “family and friends”. The extent to which a lawyer will accept to work on the basis of “family and friends” may vary from case to case. Some lawyers in a bid to get their full fee by ignoring the “family and friends” principle will push the client to another lawyer in the chamber particularly if the lawyer is the head of the chamber. By this strategy, the first lawyer is able to charge the full fee through the colleague who takes the client’s instruction. This instance is more accommodating as compared to the lawyer refusing to take up the case.

The deepest pain in a lawyer’s refusal to apply the “family and friends” principle always shows up when the lawyer refuses to take up the case. As pointed out earlier, a lawyer’s reason to refuse to take up a case may vary from case to case basis as:

  1. A criminal case

Some criminal cases of first degree felony like murder, defilement, etc. can be so demeaning to some lawyers that they will not want to touch it particularly when the accused is perceived as “family and friends” to the lawyer. Some other lawyers will gladly accept such cases purely on “ability to pay basis”. In instances where the case has a telling effect on the lawyer’s “family and friends” relations, the principle will be violated by the lawyer’s refusal to handle the case.

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There are instances where the lawyer in the spirit of “family and friends” may take the case and hand it over to another lawyer in the same chamber to do it. There are other instances where the lawyer’s firm is branded in a manner that they will not want to handle such cases no matter the amount of money involved. Such law firms are those that do pure corporate practice with selected cases in litigation. There is another option where the lawyer may out rightly not get involved. In the last instance, the “family and friends” principle is ignored completely.

Where a lawyer expected to help in the spirit of “family and friends” refuses to do so, what becomes of the relationship thereafter? Considering that the lawyer has helped in other cases in the past but for a specific case decided not to get involved, should that violate the principle of “family and friends”?

  1. Family litigation

Family litigation is a thorny issue which requires a lot of tact for many lawyers who are part of the same family litigating. Such issues usually arise with intestate of deceased estate. I am reliably informed that most of the litigation cases in the Ghanaian courts are mainly due to misunderstandings of family estate. Because of the longevity of such cases, “family and friends” principle of lawyers are mostly helpful.

Such cases drag so long that when litigation fatigue and huge costs of legal fees sets in, a party is likely to lose out unduly. In such instances “family and friends” relations with the lawyer on the case helps greatly. It is in such instances that families cry out the loudest when lawyers who are “family and friends” refuse to help.

  1. Police Officers

It is always with an excruciating pain if I have to write about the police service in Ghana. How I wish my experience with the service was different from many others in the discussion. Almost all discussants have had unpleasant encounter with the police service. The highlight is that even where police officers have shown interest to help as “family and friends”, they eventually turn against you.

What motivates the Ghanaian police to act in the way they do remains a myth to me. At one instance when you think and have all the signals from them that they will be of help, then they turn to disappoint. In the experience of most discussants, what is meant to be a “family and friend” relations rather turns to be an extortion of money from them and eventually from the offended party. Does that mean a “family and friends” relation doesn’t work with the police service?

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There is no doubt that the Ghana police service has improved and continue to improve but all discussants are of the view that if the service can get much better it will be one of the best institutions for the peace and development of Ghana. All discussants yearn for the time when the Ghana police service will be the true reflection for enforcing the laws of Ghana.

On the analysis of responses from discussants, it became virtually impossible to place the Ghana police in the “family and friends” relations since their posture cannot be determined in many instances. One discussant exclaimed “you take your case to the police and you rather become the offender”.

The recent assault of a police officer on a woman at a bank went viral and caused a lot of public outcry. This probably might have precipitated the anger of discussants to discard the very important services of the police. The impression gathered was that “the less association one has with the police, the better it will be”.

The rhetorical question is “can we do without a family and friend relation with the police?”

Conclusion

Having relations comprising “family and friends” is important for many reasons. For many who have had to fall on their close relations for much needed interventions there is sometimes outcomes that are good and bad times. It becomes an ethical dilemma when the expectations from these “family and friends” clash with the expectations required of our solemn professions; two of which are the lawyers and police discussed above.

For whatever reason a lawyer (or a law firm) may have to actively take up a case, the utmost interest of the profession vis á vis operating in the appropriate legal confines is paramount. The policeman or woman should also appear impartial regardless of the association. The challenge therefore is, until we have a clear demarcation of what is acceptable, the safeguards provided by the two professions will collapse giving in for possible biases or rejection in the case of the police’s association with “family and friends”.

No matter how many times you tossed the decision, “family and friends” relations are important and must be effectively managed in all professions. After all, it takes “family and friends” to make a profession.

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