Landmark Cases: What Is The Difference Between Law Firm And Legal Practitioner?


The effort of the law firm of Olujimi and Akeredolu, to issue a writ on behalf of  their client as legal practitioners proved contrary to their belief as their position  has been challenged at the Apex court of the land.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, made it clear that a law firm is not the  same as a legal practitioner.

The case arose from Oyo State High Court, Ibadan Judicial Division, before Justice  Akinteye, before passing through the Appeal Court to the Supreme Court.

The facts of the case: One Amos Oketade was a tenant of Mrs. Olayinka Adewunmi and  four others, who sued as administrator and beneficiary of Mrs. Juhana Oyede at an  apartment situated at 2, Irawo Lane, Agbowo, in a recovery of premises matter at the  Chief Magistrate’s Court where Amos Oketade was the respondent.

Judgement was delivered against the respondent and was ordered to deliver up  possession of the premises to his landlord within three weeks. He filed an  application for stay of execution which was refused and subsequently made a similar  application to the High Court of Ibadan, where he obtained a stay order.

Displeased, the respondent filed another application at the Court of Appeal, to set  aside the stay order granted by the High Court. The Court of Appeal then went ahead  to grant the application of the respondent as the stay order was rescinded with a  cost of N5,000.

However, Oketade decided to appeal to the Supreme Court and the respondent’s  counsel, Idowu Alabi, raised a preliminary objection that the appeal was incompetent  in that both the notice of appeal and the applicant’s brief of argument were not  issued by a legal practitioner known to law, citing Section 74(1) of the Evidence  Act.

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Mr. Alabi drew the attention of the court to Olujimi and Akeredolu and submitted  that being a name of a firm and not of a legal practitioner, it offends Section 2(1)  and 24 of the Legal Practitioners’ Act.

In a lead judgement, Justice Niki Tobi, said “it does not appear that counsel for  the appellant has an answer for the objection.

“There is a big legal difference between the name of a firm of legal practitioners  and the name of a legal practitioner and that while the name of Olujimi and  Akeredolu is a firm with some corporate existence, the name of a legal practitioner  is a name qua solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria which has no  corporate connotation as both carry different legal entitites in our jurisprudence  of parties, one cannot be substituted for the other because they are not synonymous.  It is clear that Olujimi and Akeredolu is not a name of a legal practitioner in  Nigeria” and the appeal was dismissed.

Niki Tobi said further: “I go further to take the merit of the appeal. A landlord  has an unfettered legal right to terminate a tenancy upon giving adequate notice.  The appellant has moved to three courts in his dogged effort to remain permanently  glued to the property.

“In sum, I order that the appellant must vacate possession within three months from  the date of this judgement. I order consequently that he pays all the rent due up to  date of his vacating possession to the respondent. I award N50,000 cost in favour of  the respondent.”

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