Q: Sir, I am excited to meet you and I am sure many of our colleagues will be after what we have heard and read about you.
I have only two questions to ask for the purposes of understanding your take on what I consider the two most important issues facing the Legal Profession now.
1. What is your take on the Welfare of Young Lawyers?
Dr Ajibade: The Welfare of young lawyers is an age long discussion. Most times, we have pursued it from a narrow point of view; The point of view of renumeration. The welfare of young Lawyers goes beyond renumeration. It involves factors like working conditions, benefits, Satisfaction, training opportunities, etc.
When you take these factors together, you come up with what welfare should be. For example, a person who earns Hundred Naira who has access to relevant insurance, job satisfaction, good working conditions in an organisation can have better welfare than someone earning One Hundred and Fifty Naira without any other form of benefits.
What we should be talking about is how to formulate policies that can integrate certain benefits or privileges in lawyers’ employment contracts. It will be impracticable to compel law firms or subject them to a particular standard of renumeration, considering the different types and models of practice we have across the country. However, it will be a lot easier to compel law firms, regardless of size and location to integrate benefits and explore the options of flexibility in the employment of lawyers.
This should not also exclude the fact that law firms should ensure that the take home pay of young lawyers should take them home. The NBA can do a lot in this regard.
2. What is your take on harassment and bullying in Law firms?
Dr Ajibade: I have zero tolerance for work place harassment and bullying and I strongly believe that it should be a standing policy in all law firms in Nigeria.
The major problem here may not necessarily be in the harassment itself but it is in the lack of mechanism for victims of harassments in Law firms to seek redress. Our Law association should take that seriously. Unfortunately, I have not seen any specific study on why some Junior lawyers, especially our female colleagues leave law firms but I believe that apart from other factors like remuneration, and perhaps, career goals, harassment will be on the top spot. Many good Lawyers who would have otherwise remained in practice have left because of this singular reason and that is bad news for the profession.
We sometimes make the mistake of using ‘Harassment’ and ‘Bullying’ interchangeably; they are two different things but similar.
Bullying in workplaces most times may not be physical, it could be the way Seniors talk to or address Juniors in Chambers, the way colleagues talk to or treat other colleagues in the workplace. These are issues Bar associations should put in the front burner.