Evolving nature of legal practice in nigeria

High Court

The law as we know it has evolved from the creation of man to the invention of computers and internet. Back in the 1820’s alcohol was the marijuana of today. Prohibited in some states of the United States of America (USA), now alcohol is only prohibited in few jurisdictions, same sex marriage was considered an abominable thought some centuries ago, now some countries have given legal consent to gay marriages.

In same breath, legal practice in Nigeria has evolved from clerks offering legal services in the hay days when there was no qualified legal professional, to a legal industry of hundred and twenty thousand lawyers with innovations like partnership, e-reporting, virtual law firms and the likes.

Due to the changing nature of law, it is sacrosanct that as the society grows the laws are modified to fit current trend. Recently reported that a heatwave has forced Malawi’s constitutional court to suspend its requirement for lawyers and judges to wear traditional white wigs and black robes in the courtroom.

It is my humble opinion that due to the immense transformation of legal practice; some reforms have become necessary to boost the legal industry.

The curriculum of law students, mode of teaching, and model for testing the brilliance of students needs to be modified to fit our today’s world. Courses that have become archaic ought to be discarded and new courses introduced; legal students ought to be taught how to diversify practice to become entrepreneurs. The curriculum needs to prepare law students to know how to use their legal skills to earn income for themselves not necessarily waiting for salaried employment.

The mandatory adornment of wig and gowns ought to be limited to appearance before the highest court of the land. It is understandable that since wigs and gowns are so much part of the British justice system, and as our colonial masters, we had no choice to imbibe the culture. But then, we can maintain the long-lasting tradition by modifying the adornment of the wig and gown to certain jurisdictions in the country.

Another salient area that needs a turn around is the delay of judicial proceedings in the country; this singular element can be considered as the reason for the dwindling confidence of the layman in the judiciary. I sometimes wonder why the only area of law that can be decided from commencement to appeals in one year are election petitions.

The Administration of Criminal Justice Act is one law that has contributed its part to speedy criminal trials in Nigeria. But then again, we need noble laws like this in other dispute settlement in the country. To my mind, a great country like Nigeria has reached the level where justice dispensation ought to be gotten in not more than three months, the so many loopholes hindering speedy justice dispensation ought to be checked and filled up.

During the ministerial screening, Festus Keyamo SAN suggested the unbundling of the Supreme Courts to regions, instead of having it alone in the Federal Capital Territory. This would help reduce the stress it takes lawyers from Port-Harcourt, Sokoto, or Abia to file appeals in the apex court.

Last but not least, the perception of legal practice being litigation has to change, the society needs to know that lawyers in the media, maritime, entertainment industry are also practicing lawyers in that field. The notion that every lawyer must go to court before being accepted as a lawyer needs to be discarded, lawyers must be able to venture into the entertainment industry and still be referred as a practicing lawyer in entertainment.

The legal industry in Nigeria needs to open up its borders to other enterprising areas of law, and also encourage its members to take part in it. take pause for a moment, and imagine that there have been numerous lawyers in the industry before Falz the Bahd guy (Folarin Falana, Esq) but today, Falz is known beyond the shores of Nigeria, using his knowledge of law to enlighten the society at large through music.

Nigeria need not wait for a country to come about an innovation before we begin to consider such idea, we can be the first to propagate a societal changing law by using our immediate environment and needs as a yardstick to bring about would change.


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