LSK, detectives and courts team up against Murang'a's fake lawyers

Scale of justice

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations is working with law Society of Kenya to flush out fake lawyers in Murang'a County.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Murang'a County has been hit by an influx of fake lawyers who engage in wanton extortion and theft from unsuspecting residents, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has confirmed.

County LSK President Alex Ndegwa told Nation.Africa that the matter is serious and needs immediate attention.

He said the police and courts would work with the LSK to tackle the menace.

"The situation is bad ... we have fake lawyers roaming the country armed with nothing but a verbal claim to the profession. They are a blot on the profession and we need to act," he said.

The suspected lawyers are accused of sometimes acting as a corruption bridge between justice seekers and dispensers, corrupting the value chain in the administration of due process.

The chairperson of the Murang'a Widows Empowerment Advocacy Group, Ms Jayne Kienja, said: "We are fortunate that our governor, Irungu Kang'ata, is a lawyer and is best placed to help in the fight against rogue lawyers.

Dr Kang'ata is a conveyancing lawyer who specialises in property law. 

"We have been trying to meet him to help us escape these rogue lawyers who defraud widows in inheritance disputes or in buying, selling and transferring property in real estate transactions, including the creation or removal of liens," said Ms Kienja.

In addition to fomenting conflict and deliberately giving faulty advice to clients in order to make money, the bogus lawyers are also accused of being ambulance chasers, preempting government projects with property compensation prospects, and withholding money after collecting it on behalf of their clients.

Police involved in the impending crackdown said "these characters have no offices, operate by telephone and hold client meetings in bars, their cars and lodgings".

Mr Ndegwa said the cries of defrauded residents who had unsuspectingly hired the services of the fake lawyers had become too loud to be ignored.

He vowed to arrest and prosecute the suspects soon.

National media

"We will make a big announcement. We will call the media to show their faces on national media while they are in court. They must stop operating in Murang'a, this is a noble profession that values integrity more than money," he said.

As the war takes shape, the county courts have issued uniform rules of engagement, requiring all those appearing before them as lawyers to prove their authenticity.

"Please note that we have received concerns from advocates that there are individuals who are practising as advocates without possessing a genuine certificate... individuals who are not admitted as advocates of the High Court of Kenya," reads a statement from the courts dated May 25, 2023.

The courts are now demanding that all advocates seeking services file their pleadings with a copy of their current practising certificate.
Litigants representing themselves in person will be expected to produce and attach the practising certificate of the advocate(s) who commissioned their documents. 

"All process servers will also be required to attach current practising certificates to each affidavit they file in court," the statement said.

On May 17, LSK President Eric Theuri told KTN News that the profession was launching a nationwide crackdown on quacks.

"We have seen an increase in cases of people who are not qualified to practise law setting up law firms and providing legal services as lawyers. We will launch crackdowns to arrest the criminals," he said.

Mr Theuri noted that the industry's quacks set up their law firms in smaller towns where they are difficult to detect, while others operate through impersonation.

Mr Theuri announced that the crackdown would be coordinated by a structure set up within the LSK, while urging the public to seek confirmation of the legality of those they recruit as lawyers.