By Omo Stalina Ehi-Osifo Esq.
Section 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act 1975 defines a Legal Practitioner as a person entitled in accordance with the provisions of this Act to practice as a barrister or as a barrister and solicitor, either generally or for the purposes of any particular office or proceedings.
Furthermore, section 2 of the LPA states that, subject to the provision of this Act, a person shall be entitled to practice as a barrister and solicitor, if, his name is on the roll. (2) if
(a) an application under this subsection is made to the chief justice by or on behalf of any person appearing to him to be entitled to practice as an advocate in any country where the legal system is similar to that of Nigeria; and
(b) the chief justice is of the opinion that it is expedient to permit that person to practice as a barrister for the purposes of proceedings described in the application.
In Nigeria, by virtue of the classification by the Nigerian Bar Association, a young lawyer is a lawyer who is not more than 7 years at the bar.
An emerging market economy on the other hand, is the economy of a developing nation that is becoming more engaged within global markets as it grows. Countries classified as emerging market economies are those with some, but not all, of the characteristics of a developed market. An emerging market economy progresses with the global economy, as shown by increased liquidity.
The role of young lawyers in the emerging markets of the legal profession in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. The Nigerian legal profession banks on the overwhelming number of smart and industrious lawyers that the Nigerian Law School churns out every year. The future of the Nigerian Bar lies in the hands of these Young Practitioners and it would require adequate preparation and engagements for a productive time in the legal profession.
The 21st century has brought with it new areas of legal practice alongside dynamic ways of practicing law. With the growth in commercial transactions, government policies, foreign participation in business, growth in population, inter connectivity occasioned by ICT resources that have united the world as one global village, legal issues arise every second. The challenges young lawyers have are too numerous to mention. Young lawyers have to first decide what form and area of law he/she would practice. Young lawyers would be advised to go into partnerships that would favour them because of the opportunities partnerships provide in creating economy of scales, opportunity to leverage on skills and resources of other partners. The 21st century young lawyer must learn from the mistakes of old wigs who established law firm that were sole proprietorship or sole practitionership that died after their predecessors/founders were no more.
YOUNG LAWYERS AND THEIR ROLES IN EMERGING MARKETS
A Young lawyer’s role in emerging markets in Nigeria is to enter into strategic partnerships, build long lasting law firms that would one day become institutions that would not only meets the needs of client in the digital and technological space all over the world but would also cater for the needs of employees and meet their corporate social responsibility. Legal practice in Nigeria has a lot of facets that still remains untapped, a lot of areas still remain unexplored in Nigeria. A young lawyer who wishes to succeed must tap into these areas and pick a specialty relevant in these emerging markets. Some of the parts less trodden in these last century include medical law, aviation law, mining law, copyright law etc.
These areas of law would not be easy to venture into by young lawyers because there are no judicial or academic elucidation on these areas of law, so, a young lawyer would have to study and enroll in continuing professional development. Young lawyers are to develop their skills in information and communication technology, such skills involve learning how to use Microsoft word, Microsoft excel, Wikipedia, law pavilion, google, email, lexis nexis etc.
Also a young lawyer would find a tad bit difficult to attract the right kind of clients in this 21st century so he/she must invest in human resources.
Young lawyers must also insure their firm against vicarious negligence which may arise from their relationship with companies and individuals to ensure the security of their practice.
At the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association Conference held in Abuja, young lawyers were advised to embrace new areas of law, such as Telecommunications Law, Alternative dispute resolution, Intellectual Property Law, Cyber Law, Aviation Law, etc. against the more traditional tracks. These, they said were the emerging new markets that could prove very lucrative for the average Nigerian young Lawyers.
Young Lawyers find it difficult in the legal profession and the older lawyers with more experience had an upper hand. However, technology has changed that equation a great deal. Young lawyers who grew up using the internet are using new technology to build their brand, find clients, learn new skills, automate their work and deliver better customer experience.
The legal profession is facing a convergence of forces, most notably significant advances, in the capabilities of technology, economic pressures challenging existing business models and globalization that herald momentous change to the practice of law. In Australia, the lead in seeking to understand these developments and formulate reprises has been taken by the law society of New South Wales and its report on the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP). The law society conduced a commission of inquiry which culminated in the recognition of skills or areas of knowledge that were identified as essential for the successful future practice of law. In short, this involves two main Inter-related streams of knowledge: Firstly, the ability to understand and employ technology and secondly, a collection of skills that result in a practice ready lawyer.
An emerging market in the legal profession in Nigeria that lags behind is the copyright law. Young lawyers can tap into this emerging market of copyright. Young lawyers can clamour for the improvements to be made in the law and dive into the market. Nigerias copyright law was first governed by the English Copyright Act, 1911, which was made applicable to Nigeria by the Colonial power of Great Britain. Nigeria applied the 1911 Act until it was replaced with the copyright Act of 1970. This act was considered inadequate because it failed to combat and punish the increasing rate of piracy and other copyrights infringements. Hence the birth of the 1988 Act, later amended and recodified.
In 2012, the Nigerian Copyright Commission led the drafting of a new copyright bill, published in 2015. But the Countrys National Assembly has not passed into law from the late 1900s, the global intellectual property regime encountered disruptive changes because of the influence of digital technology. The world intellectual property organisation led the charge to change intellectual property laws to respond to digital creations and protect creativity. The outcome is the current global digitalized intellectual property regimes Nigeria, with its archaic copyright regime, still lags behind. The countrys copyright laws and others which may complement copyright including torts, contract and e-commence laws have not been updated since 1999.
With the recent trend of globalization of legal practice, business of legal practice and the emerging global market order, the ultimate call is for specialization. Specialization is a term often used to denote a substantial concentration of activity within a particular field of practice. With globalization, modernization and the emerging global market order. In order to be relevant in the emerging International development, there is an urgent need for young lawyers to discover areas of their strongest interest and trail blaze. Also, young lawyers can be engaged in the emerging markets of the legal profession by networking and partnership; attending conferences/training/seminars and workshops etc. pupilage also affords a young lawyer an opportunity to acquire the necessary practice skills. The legal profession is a technical field and every new entrant is expected to learn the intricate rudiments of the profession. Pupilage and mentoring provides further to see further in life.
Its the duty of every young lawyer to suggest changes to the laws guiding his/her area of practice that he/she believes is inhibiting growth or has proved difficult in practice so as to accommodate these emerging markets in Nigeria.
Young lawyers should take steps by submitting memorandum to and lobbying the relevant law making body. The executive or the agency involved, in order to ensure that the relevant sections of the law are amended or new laws are enacted to take care of observed lacunas, for greater effectiveness and efficiency.
Young lawyers must utilize inter and multi disciplinary approaches in providing solutions to clients in these emerging market. For instance, in suggesting way to make Nigerias micro pension work better, young lawyer can borrow insights from the World Economic Forums White Paper on we will live to 100! How can we afford it? Which is a specialist study on building a good pension system.
Young lawyers have a role in this market to ensure their business structure is sustainable. There is a need to utilize a business structure that can encourage growth, support larger number of legal practitioners and sustainable profit in legal practice than many present day law firms cannot support.
Also, there is a need to involve the Nigerian law school in the training of lawyers to fit into the emerging Nigerian markets, the Nigerian law school has a pivotal role to play in the legal profession as teachings in the Nigerian law school are still very traditional and archaic, lectures in corporate law and property law are still done traditionally, instead of introducing new and technological ways of teaching these courses. The Nigerian law school, if improved will help young lawyers being produced in the school to be technologically advanced and ready to face these emerging markets head on.
There is also the issue of mentorship for young lawyers, the legal profession has been built strategically on mentorship, young lawyers need to continually be mentored and advised , they need older lawyers who have knowledge in these emerging market to keep them abreast of changing laws and practices in these changing times. There is need for pupilage with pay in a technologically advanced chambers where they can properly specialize and become experts in a particular field.
Lastly, the roles of lawyers in the emerging markets of the Nigerian Legal Profession is cut out for every young Nigerian lawyer. Defence of the rule of law, specialization, assisting in speedy administration of justice, being at the forefront in effecting changes in the law, ensuring their business model is sustainable, to name but a few. Fulfilling these roles, will go a long way in making the legal profession in Nigeria more robust and efficient. Young lawyers will succeed in these emerging times if they remain focused and remain updated on no relevant laws, sharpening themselves and never forgetting that the journey of a thousand miles start with a step.
Omo Stalina Ehi-Osifo Esq. is a Benin Based Award Winning Legal Practitioner ,who is a Pupil Counsel with K.O Obamogie & Co., Benin City. She can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org