Obscure legal services offered by lawyers (Part 1) – Management

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Lawyers have a civic duty to uphold the law and passively inform the public of the various laws and procedures in the event you need legal assistance. Lawyers also have the statutory privilege of being the only professionals who can provide certain services. While some services are mainstream, there are others that are obscure but the public needs them. Unfortunately, most of the time obtaining this information will come at a cost. This then creates a disconnect between expectations, legal rights and the behavior of civilians, who in most cases are innocently unaware of what the law has in store for them. In this series, we try to educate the public about some of the lesser-known legal services offered by lawyers, in case you’re wondering how to get help.

1. SURVEILLANCE BRIEFS (Criminal Cases)

A watch warrant is an instruction given to an attorney to observe and watch the arrest and prosecution of a defendant on the complainant’s report. The plaintiff will be the attorney’s client. In most cases, lawyers would represent the accused person as they would be the person trying to fight for their freedom or clear their name. A plaintiff is also usually represented by a prosecutor who is the attorney for the state, as all criminal offenses are against the state. The mechanism of a “watch file” adds accountability to the process of apprehending an accused, including his or her prosecuting authorities trying to secure a conviction. An attorney who is responsible for conducting a surveillance briefing has the responsibility to assist police officers in identifying an appropriate charge/offence, properly preparing the indictment and state plan, evaluating appropriate witnesses and evidentiary documents as well as verifying whether there is collusion between the accused (including his relatives) and the police. The lawyer also has the additional duty of ensuring that the prosecutor conducts the criminal trial in a professional and astute manner in order to secure the conviction of the accused. The benefits of a surveillance warrant include professional counseling for traumatic crimes, restriction of corruption with law enforcement officers, and avoidance of botched investigations and prosecutions of offences.

2. DUE DILIGENCE ON PROPERTY PURCHASES

Buying a high value property is not a simple exercise. This particularly applies to the Zimbabwean market. Fraudsters have now flooded the space with the sale of undeveloped land, homes, commercial buildings, vehicles and other high-value assets. The advice to the public before parting with your hard-earned money is to hire a lawyer who can assess the legality of the transaction and mitigate the risks that may be associated with any transaction. Endemic cases of double sales, sales of non-existent land, sales of stolen vehicles and transactions with individuals without authorization to sell are commonplace. The criminal justice system may do little to recover your lost money and/or your opportunity for personal development. Prevention is indeed better than cure. For a small fee, a solicitor can assess the identity of the seller, the legality of the transaction, a background check with major offices that keep a record of the property i.e. Deeds Registry Office, registration of companies, the central register of vehicles. and the Vehicle Theft Squad department among other state departments. Lawyers have the skills and training to navigate all of these offices, including interviewing the people you intend to do business with, observing potential red flags. As if that weren’t enough, lawyers can also insert certain “safety” clauses into agreements that act as a last line of defense for the most methodical and calculating fraudsters. These include take-back clauses, refund clauses and specific guarantees.

3. RECEIPT AND ACCOUNTING OF TRUST FUNDS

Under the Law Practitioners Act, lawyers are required to open a separate checking account with a bank which will act as the law firm‘s trust account. An in-trust account is a highly regulated account that a law firm uses to hold and retain custody of funds belonging to a third party pending a specific warrant or instruction. A trust account does not necessarily function like a bank account in the conventional sense, but it has more or less similar characteristics. Being a heavily regulated account, the ethical expectations of a lawyer who holds money in trust on behalf of the client are high. Unauthorized use of trust funds and failure to account for trust funds may result in a lawyer being removed from the list of practicing lawyers, including prosecution for a criminal offense. Trust accounts are an effective tool for receiving funds when you do not have an existing account in the Jurisdiction, i.e. rentals of a property or purchase price payments that are made periodically and consistently over a period of time. This service is also good for guarding against the misuse of funds while waiting for a particular transaction to be completed. As security for payment due for a particular service, a party to a contract may appoint a trust account into which funds are paid and are only released on instruction after satisfactory performance of all contractual obligations.

4. NAME CHANGE

Have you wondered if it’s possible to change part of your name or maybe you thought you had no choice but to stick with the name on your birth certificate? The answer is that a name change is entirely possible and lawyers, especially those registered as notaries public, are the only professionals who can perform such a process. The name change process takes place through the preparation of a notarial act of name change prepared by specially qualified lawyers. The proposed new name is also announced in the public media to inform the public and raise objections. You may change your name to any name you desire, provided the name is not morally offensive, receives a valid objection from any member of the public, and the intent to change your name is not misleading and fraudulent with a criminal motive. Some names given to us by parents and loved ones lead to low self-esteem, ridicule from peers, religious intolerance and all of this can lead to mental health issues. In the exercise of the freedoms conferred on us by the constitution, the possibility of changing one’s name is a recognized right which most people do not know and especially how one can go about it.

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of the series where we identify more arcane legal services and the rights and obligations they create for citizens.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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