Firm gets files from lawyer who refused to release them in payment row
Monday May 15 2023
What happens when a client wants to change advocates after winning a case and picks a new law firm to complete the remaining process?
In a ruling last week, Justice Nixon Sifuna said whereas order 9 rule 9 of the civil procedure rules are meant to protect lawyers from mischievous clients who wait for a judgment to be delivered and then sack the advocate, it should not be used to block a person’s choice of legal representation.
The Judge made the ruling in an application filed by Lucy Wanyama & Company Advocates, who wanted to represent Mistry Javda Parbat & Company Ltd in a case against Golden Jubilee Ltd.
The company appointed Lucy Wanyama & Company Advocates to complete the remaining process to the chagrin of Patel Advocates, which demanded the new law firm make an undertaking that they would pay their pending legal fees.
“A court should not allow a debriefed advocate to exploit such an innocuous provision of the law, to hold it, the suit, and a properly instructed in-coming advocate at ransom, or assist the debriefed advocate to force a client to stick with him,” the judge said.
The judge said an advocate-client relationship is a relationship of trust, and if a client no longer has confidence or interest in their advocate, the courts cannot force such a client to stick with the advocate.
Justice Sifuna added that the insistence of the previous advocates to be paid before allowing the new advocates to come on record on a precondition of fees has no legal basis.
He added that the outgoing advocates’ fees will be handled through taxation of the advocate-client bill of costs.
The Judge said it’s beneath the legal professionals to be engaging in fights over clients and dragging the courts into the feuds.
“The condescending stance is not only unhealthy for the nobility of the legal profession, but also has no legal backing,” the judge said.
The court said the same way an advocate has a right to choose who to represent, a client has the discretion to pick a legal representation.
The judge said new advocates, are only required to make an application to come on record and nothing more.
“After all, the freedom to change one’s mind is a human right in line with the freedom of conscience and a client has a right to be represented by an advocate of his choice,” the judge said.
He also dismissed claims by Patel Advocates that another law firm Dubow & Company Advocates has also filed an application to come on record for the client.
“interestingly, Patel Advocates seem to prefer to hand over the case to Dubow, rather than Wanyama, without bothering that Wanyama’s application is supported by the sworn supporting affidavit,” he said.
Justice Sifuna said where there are two applications from two law firms to come on record, the first one to be heard prevails.