The Young Lawyer: Expectations, Challenges and Prospects in the 21st Century by E. O. Odo, Esq

Being a Presentation at the 2019 Annual Law Week/ Buba Ardo Memorial Lectures of the Nigerian Bar Association, Yola Branch, By E. O. Odo, Esq., LL.M, BL., Ch.MC


Introduction

WHO IS A YOUNG LAWYER? By section 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act 2004 (LPA) a legal practitioner is any person entitled in accordance with the provisions of the LPA to practice as a barrister or as a solicitor, either generally or for any specific purpose. By section 2(1) of the LPA a person shall be entitled to practice as a barrister and solicitor if, and only if, his name is on the roll. • NBA recognizes a lawyer that is not more than seven years at the bar as a young lawyer. That definition is sufficient for our purpose.

Expectations

Every new wig and society is full of expectation at call to bar ceremonies but most times these expectations often give way to reality which usually sets in leaving society and many young lawyers disappointed. • INDIVIDUAL • To ensure justice for the oppressed • To secure remedy for every wrong • To be well paid • To become rich and famous • To contribute financially in supporting your family and community • To become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria . • SOCIETAL • To provide sound legal guidance • To be honest • To ensure justice at minimal or no fee at all • To contribute financially at events • To assist family members and others • Every lawyer is a wealthy man

Challenges

• Deciding what path to take in life • Private practice/litigation • Corporate practice • Teaching • Secretarial • Civil service • Bench • Nature of legal practice in Nigeria • Sole proprietorship • Each man for himself • Minimally effective rules of practice • Poor remuneration • The disconnection between law school and reality of practice . • Inadequate remuneration • Lack of experience • The number of new wigs per year • Lack of library & internet facilities • Falling standard of practice • Attitude of young lawyers • Inability to advertise services • Attitude of senior lawyers • High expectation of the society • Lack of skills in information technology • Lack of proper business structure • Taxation • Absence of enforceable labour rules within the NBA.

Prospects- The Way Forward

• The Chairman of the Body of Benchers, Hon. Justice I. T. Muhammad, CJN at the last call to bar ceremonies held last from 26th to 28th November, 2019 in his address to the new wigs stated as follows;

  • “It is important to note that, gone are the days when law was a relatively solitary pursuit and legal practitioners insulate themselves from other areas of learning. I make bold to say that to say that the legal profession in the 21st century encompasses a wide range of activities requiring a wide network of diverse competences and lawyers are expected to show demonstrable understanding and successfully integrate the various bodies of skills and learning – both legal and non legal – to provide value to the discerning client. You must remain focused and curious not only about developments in the law but also about those outside it. …” . • Live by the rules and ethics of the profession and earn integrity
  • Rule 1 of RPC – observe the rule of law, promote and foster the course of justice, maintain high standard and no conduct unbecoming of a legal practitioner.
  • Rule 9 – pay BPF on or before March 31st
  • Duty to court. Officer of the court. Decent conduct and decorum. Proper dressing.
  • Duty to client. Fiduciary, utmost good faith, honesty. Give candid advice.
  • Duty to colleagues. Respect, fairness, dignity, observe precedence
  • The value of strategic partnerships with colleagues
  • Insurance
  • Two good heads are better than one – It is easier to meet timelines .
  • Pro bono cases – marketing and advertisement
  • Continuing legal education
  • Self improvement in all areas
  • Find and embrace a mentor
  • Welcome globalization
  • Technology is key • Virtual offices • International practice
  • Every hard working lawyer “makes it” in the long run, the labourer deserves his wage

“One thing only that I know, and that is that I know nothing.” -Socrates In the book How to Win Friend and Influence People at P 122 Dale Carnegie quoted Ben Franklin as saying “If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes: but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponents good will.” He also quoted the Boston Transcript as follows “Here lies the body of William Jay. Who died maintaining his right of way – He was right, dead right, as he sped along. But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.”

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