The Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Sierra Leone, Francis Ben Kaifala has today, Tuesday 18 October 2022 lectured Sierra Leone Law School students on ethical lawyering to mark the commencement of the school’s 2022 academic year.

Read full details of the Commissioner Kaifala’s lecture below:

“Lawyer Advocate Vs. States-man Lawyer: The Case for building the Next Generation of Ethical Lawyers in Sierra Leone”


1. Mr. Director, Sierra Leone Law School, tutors, staff of the Law School, students and budding Lawyers, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen. I bring you warm greetings from the Anti-corruption Commission and the Sierra Leone Bar.

2. It is often said that a lawyer is as good as his case. There is probably a general merit in that saying including its role in comforting losing parties; but I would rather say that a good lawyer is as good as the legal system within which he practices. I use the word “good” with reference to a lawyer with caution, as “good” is such an elusive word and is often erroneously substituted in the minds of clients to mean “smart”; but a smart lawyer is not necessarily a good one. Many smart Lawyers have proven to be not-so-good lawyers by the unethical way they conduct themselves and handle cases – and it takes way more than being smart to be a good lawyer. The same is the case for experience in practice, which is a valuable advantage, but does not necessarily make a lawyer good.

3. What does it mean to say a lawyer is a “good lawyer”? Moreover, what makes a lawyer ethical? By a good lawyer, I mean a professionally competent and effective lawyer. By an ethical lawyer, I mean a moral person, a person of praiseworthy character. It is difficult to discern much of relevance on this question by examining legal materials. Legal opinions seldom discuss the lawyer as a moral agent, even when reviewing specific conduct found to violate professional ethical norms. We often base our assessment on merely what the lawyer did wrong or right vis-à-vis a plaintiff or defendant or more generally, a client. But, We need the basis for an assessment of the whole person that can provide insight into the personality and character of the individual lawyer beyond a particular case.

4. I will attempt to describe a good lawyer as one who has a vast understanding of the law (and where to find it in the books), a good listener, conducts himself professionally and above all makes good judgments that will maximize possible results for his clients. A good lawyer must have good communication skills, exercise judgment, possess great analytical skills, have research skills, exude people skills, have perseverance, and embody creativity. While there are many lawyers, it does not take rocket science for the savvy client to identify where to put his/her money in order to receive quality legal advice and representation. The Biblical postulation that “many are called but few are chosen” is as good for the legal profession as it is for entry into Heaven.

5. The dominant model of ethical lawyering views lawyers as zealous advocates, who do whatever possible within the bounds of the law to serve their client’s interests, regardless of what the lawyers themselves think of their client’s ends. More recently, however, legal ethics scholars have begun to challenge the hegemony of this model, arguing that ethical lawyering involves not the suspension of moral judgment but the exercise of it. On this alternative “contextual view”, lawyers must take personal moral responsibility for the consequences of their professional acts.

6. The lawyer-advocate model is based on the assertion that the lawyer’s pursuit of a client’s goals often, but not necessarily, prevents the lawyer from pursuing the common good. One of the earliest and most forceful arguments in support of the lawyer-advocate model was provided by Lord Henry Brougham in 1820. Brougham was the leader of a group in the House of Lords who was defending Queen Caroline against King George IV’s charges of adultery. This group had learned that the King had secretly married a Roman Catholic before assuming the throne and was, therefore, not eligible to rule. Brougham threatened to reveal this information, which would have produced chaos in the realm if the King did not reach a settlement with Queen Caroline. Brougham made it clear that he would take this action in defense of his cause in favour of Queen Caroline no matter the effect on the community. Brougham stated his view of the duties of an advocate:
“An advocate, in the discharge of his duty, knows but one person in all the world, and that person is his client. To save that client by all means and expedients, and at all hazards and costs to other persons, and, among them, to himself, is his first and only duty; and in performing this duty he must not regard the alarm, the torments, the destruction which he may bring upon others. Separating the duty of a patriot from that of an advocate, he must go on reckless of consequences, though it should be his unhappy fate to involve his country in confusion”.

7. While notions of professionalism and the constraints of personal character may result in a more benign understanding of the lawyer-advocate, it should be clear that *the lawyer-advocate does not identify with the pursuit of the common good. Rather, the lawyer-advocate knows and pursues only the interest of “one person in all the world, and that person is his client.”

8. A valuable source for beginning our examination of the role of the lawyer in society is the writings of Anthony Kronman, a former dean of the Yale Law School, who wrote the monograph, The Lost Lawyer, published in 1993. In this book, Kronman wrote about the *embodiment of professional excellence for lawyers in the early Republic as an idealized figure captured in the concept of the lawyer-statesman. While these lawyers were certainly engaged in the mundane business of earning a living in their law office with little likelihood of engaging in grand exercises of statesmanship, these attorneys engaged in practice with this model of the lawyer-statesman in mind. The lawyer-statesman was a source of inspiration as the attorney engaged in advising and representing individuals who were viewed as having all the limitations and faults of human beings.

9. According to Kronman, the paradigm of the lawyer-statesman embodied an ideal of character. In this view, *the lawyer aimed not only to be an accomplished technician, but at the same time sought to be a distinctive and praiseworthy type of person, a person of practical wisdom. In addition, the lawyer-statesman was to be a devoted citizen who cared about the public good and sought to secure it in his work. When the lawyer-statesman acted as an advocate of private interests or as a counselor in matters of state, he provided advice and guidance to help his client deliberate and come to an informed understanding of the client’s own ambitions, interests, and goals. But, as significant, the lawyer-statesman sought to guide the client’s decision in the direction of the common good.

10. The lawyer-statesman is distinguished by his qualities of character so that he is defined by who he is as much as by what he knows and by what he does. According to Kronman, “The lawyer-statesman, possessed of great practical wisdom and exceptional persuasive powers, is devoted to the public good but keenly aware of the limitations of human beings and their political arrangements …” Kronman concludes that the ideal of the lawyer-statesman meant that a person could achieve a level of real excellence in his work only by acquiring certain traits of character. The goal of the lawyer-statesman was not merely to be an accomplished technician but also an estimable type of human being – a person of good character.

11. Tell me, which one would you would rather be! THE CHOICE IS YOURS!

12. On a similar note, It is self-evident that lawyers, like all other individuals, should not carry out illegal activities. As the traditional role of lawyers is that of defender of justice and representative of individuals before the law, the fall-out from lawyers being involved in corrupt practices can be far greater than that of other professions, and rightly so. However, the recent legislative changes in other jurisdictions now take a far broader view of what would be considered a corrupt activity. Failing to report suspicious activity and letting a client know that you have informed authorities about their behaviour are now considered part of the bundle of illegal or corrupt activities. It is these requirements that are having an important effect on lawyer-client privilege.

13. This obligation on lawyers not to engage in illegal activities is seen as vital in upholding professional standards and obviously extends to the activities of bribery and corruption. The way in which this obligation is expressed varies from country to country, but the central tenet is always the same — lawyers must not themselves breach, or facilitate a breach, of the law.

14. All this said, it is certainly doubtful what good can be harnessed from a good or ethical lawyer if the legal system is perceived to be dysfunctional and lacks transparency, certainty and predictability. The legal system ought to provide the ideal environment for the lawyer to ply his trade with fair amount of certainty and confidence. The lawyer should be able to make promises to his clients with a fair amount of confidence and reasonable judgment, which he can deliver upon by doing his very best without losing face to his clients, irrespective of the outcome of his case.

15. To that end, the legal system should be the backbone of the law and the courts the most important institution of a free society. For that reason, when people turn to the courts, it is their expectation that lawyers, judges and other judicial personnel act with ethics, transparency and honesty. If, however, the public is under the perennial impression that those who are given this sacred responsibility are dishonest, the justice system will lack spine, thereby leaving the law incapable of functioning properly and society will degenerate into chaos and lawlessness. For this reason, I have no doubts that the President’s promise to tackle and curb lawlessness will hardly succeed, as it is the confidence that citizens have in the transparent and predictable application of the law that will urge them to be law abiding and live up to the expectations placed on them.

16. Where the justice system is reliably functional, cases are brought to court with the anticipation that they are expeditiously dealt with so as to reach speedy logical conclusion and the litigants await the remedies that the courts provide with anxiety and nervous expectation. When, however, cases are not concluded with speed and transparency, litigants are likely to get frustrated, disillusioned and lose faith in the overall ability of the courts to dispense justice. While the fair and equitable outcome of cases ought to be the desired public good of the judicial system, the speed at which they are done should also be of utmost importance.

17. While there remains the need to overhaul our laws to make them expedient to the changing dynamics of time. Good laws and good lawyers will be useless if the just and fair application of the law is regarded as more of the exception. It is certainly demoralizing to a practicing lawyer to have at the back of his mind that money prevails over justice or that political influence speaks louder than the best drafted legislation. Justice can only be said to be best served when it brings about the best possible outcome of a dispute for both parties irrespective of who wins or loses. If we are to establish ourselves as a beacon of law and order within the context of the free country we pride ourselves to be living in, we must ensure that fairness and justice prevail over other interests – and lawyers must be ready to stand for this.

18. It will be asking too much if it is expected that the public should assist Lawyers and judges in the fight to keep the profession honourable – the least that can be given back to them for all the special status the Profession enjoys is that each man be given his due according to law. Every lawyer and judge are supposed to be an intellectual and intellectualism calls for self-examination and the willingness to act upon that which our minds feed our pens and mouths. It will therefore be helpful to plunge deep down the sanctum sanctorum of our beliefs, responsibilities and strengths to reflect on our individual and collective roles in the shaping of public opinion of us. Such introspection should help us resurface with the spirit of renascence and embolden us to stand against injustice in line with the oaths we take when being “Called”. Doing this, will make every citizen to continue to value his lawyer and not view him with suspicion.

19. While we reflect on all the above with the hope of maintaining, if not restoring the good of the profession, let it be on our minds that lawyers are only capable of reaching their full potentials when the Rule of Law thrives, society is peaceful and the supporting institutions, especially the judiciary, function honestly, transparently, efficiently and predictably. If these are not forthcoming, unfortunately, the good lawyer will remain as good as the system in which he practices. To ensure we have a paradigm shift, we need lawyers to become states-man lawyers while being excellent advocates. The choice is ours.

20. I thank you all!