Problems of the legal profession in Nigeria: You will agree with me that Nigeria has the best law firms, lawyers and law students in Africa. This country is undoubtedly blessed with great interlectuals. Just last year, about 200 students graduated with a first class honor from the Nigerian law school. Accordingly, Nigeria is probably the first and only country in Africa that has created the case management system. With the case management system, lawyers are required to obtain the Legal Mail to facilitate communication and correspondence with courts. The mail system is indeed a step to the right direction by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
But that notwithstanding, Nigeria cannot boast of a flawless legal system. The profession is really dead when compared with the legal system of other top countries in the world. Today, i will be listing and discussing extensively, some of the problems/challenges of the legal profession in Nigeria. Coupled with that, i will proffer solutions for each of the problem mentioned in this work. I therefore enjoin you to read this article painstakingly as it will do justice to the topic herein.
Problems of the legal profession in Nigeria
Below are the problems and challenges of the Nigerian legal system:
- Poor Law Reporting
- Exploitation of young lawyers by law firms
- Unauthorized untruding by non-practitioners
- Exploitation by clients
Yeah! These are some of the problems facing the legal profession in Nigeria. As we continue, i will explicitly explain how these different points mitigate the effectiveness of the judiciary and slow the growth of the law in Nigeria. Here we go!
Poor Law Reporting:
There is no doubt that the effectiveness of law reporting in Nigeria is very poor. In fact, as it stands now, Nigeria does not have up to 3(three) effective law reporting companies. This is really a problem to the legal profession in Nigeria. The reason is because, for the doctrine of judicial precedent to be practicable, there most be constant reporting of all the latest judicial decisions in the country.
I can’t actually tell why law reporting in Nigeria is so poor. It has gotten to the extent that even the government owned law report of the country is not working. Till today, the government has not said anything about why it stopped the publication or even try to brainstorm an ideal that will help Nigerian students in their legal studies. More so, the legislature are not really doing anything to regulate the rate of inaccurate court decisions shared online.
It is evident that even the few law reporting companies in Nigeria like Law Pavillion Electronic Law Report (LPELR) and the Nigerian Weekly Law Report (NWLR), are also having problems in reporting of cases. For instance, LawPavillion do not edit cases before publication. This is undoubtedly the wrong way of reporting a case. In general, the problem of law reporting in Nigeria is indeed a challenge faced by many lawyers in Nigeria and until it is solved there will be no progress in the profession.
Exploitation of young lawyers by law firms:
The rate of exploitation of young lawyers in Nigeria is another problem that should be solved as soon as possible. If this problem is not managed within the next few years, there will probably be no payment for the job done by young lawyers in Nigeria.
Before expanding this point, i would like to give the dictionary meaning of the term “exploitation“. Exploitation can be defined as the improper use of something for selfish purposes. It is defined by Oxford dictionary as the action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work. This is exactly what most law firms are doing today. If you visit some of the top law firms in Nigeria, you will find out that young lawyers work like their lives depends on their job; but they are still paid little. I was surprise when i heard that some law firms in Nigeria pay N10,000 to their lawyers. This money is apparently below the salary to an ordinary sales girl in the market.
It is quite pathetic that after suffering in school, young lawyers earn nothing. This has undoubtedly dissuaded many people from joining the legal profession because no one will want to suffer for about 7 (seven) years and end up collecting 20k – 30k at the end of every month as salary. It is indeed one of the problems facing the legal profession in Nigeria.
Another problem facing the legal profession in Nigeria is the high rate at which non-practitioners intrude in the profession. This is indeed another alarming problem that must be solved as soon as possible. Just last week, my mom told me that she entered a hire purchase contract with a driver and that the document for the contract was written by her church’s deacon.
That sounds rediculous right? Well, it is a problem that must be fought or else, there will be no job left for lawyers again. The truth is that, citizens will always run to where there is cheap labor. That is, citizens would like to employ the service a normal good writer which is cheaper, than going to look for a lawyer who is very expensive.
It doesn’t have to be so. Allowing non-practitioners to do the job of lawyers will do great damage to the legal profession. It is argued that there are already laws regulating the non lawyers in the legal profession but the truth is that these law are not effective. Trust me; if this problem persist, this profession will loose it pristige in the shortest possible time.
Corruption is a big problem in Nigeria. It is not just a problem peculiar to the legal profession. Corruption plays in almost every sector in Nigeria including churches. That notwithstanding, the problem of tribalism, napotism and favoritism which i classify as the different dimensions of corruption, also play in the legal profession.
Take for instance, the honor of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) has almost turn into a title for friends and people that have upper hands in the legal profession. Originally, that title is suppose to be given to lawyers who have done greatly well in their areas of specialty. But today, the opposite is the case. We now have confuse lawyers answering SAN in Nigeria.
This is really a problem because it mitigates the pristige of the legal profession in Nigeria. If corruption is allowed to flow into the legal profession, people will no longer respect Nigerian lawyers. Accordingly, the justice system of Nigeria will be damaged beyond repair. Like i said before, the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.
Exploitation by clients:
I use to think that lawyers are the only people capable of exploiting their clients, but that was wrong. After reading a speech made by one of the founding partners of Kenna partners (one of best law firms in Nigeria), it became care to me that sometimes, clients exploit their lawyers.
Of course, I have seen cases where a lawyer and his client agrees on a particular money for the service of the lawyer and after the lawyer has done his job, the client denies ever making such agreement. It is quite pathetic; and sometimes lawyer do nothing when such actions are done.
It is obviously a big problem facing the Nigerian legal system now. In my view, it will be apt for lawyers to make a separate contract for payment before doing any job. This will deter wicked clients from not paying their lawyers very well.
Solutions to the challenges of the legal profession in Nigeria
Now that you have known the problems facing young lawyers in Nigeria and the legal profession as a whole, it is important to proffer some solutions that will likely stop or drastically reduce these problems. So here we go!
Solution to the problem of poor law reporting:
To solve the problem of poor law reporting in Nigeria, the government should create a database containing the accurate decisions of Nigerian court since independence. The internet is rapidly taking over every sector of the country now. Thus, it is not advisable to publish books. Creating a reliable electronic law report system will go a long way to solve this problem.
Accordingly, the legislature should make laws regulating law reporting in the country. Over the years, the internet has been flooded with fake law reporters, disseminating cases that were never decided. The only way the government can stop this act is by making laws that will regulate unauthorized reporting of judicial decisions in the country.
Solution to the exploitation of young lawyers by law firms
To solve this, law firms in Nigeria must unanimously agree to pay their lawyers reasonable amount of money (at least 40k), knowing fully well that those young lawyers spent considerable number of years in school training to become successful in their profession. Young lawyers are also advised to start up their own law firms as soon as they can (That is, as soon as they gain enough experience). This is probably the only way to exclude yourself from the exploitation of senior lawyers.
If only the legislature will make laws punishing non-lawyers for doing the jobs of lawyers, this problem will come to an abrupt end. However, it should be noted that such laws must be effective to serve the purpose for which they were made.
Solution to the problem of corruption
Corruption is a very big problem in Nigeria. In my opinion, the judiciary should, if possible, create a separate body that will regulate the activities of lawyers in their courts and also set more criteria for obtaining the title of a SAN. This will not totally stop corruption for sure. It will surely reduce the rate of corruption in the profession.
Okay! There you have an extensive discuss of the problems/challenges of the legal profession in Nigeria. Having proffered solutions that will help to solve these problems, I enjoin the Nigerian government to do something about these problems as solving them will have great impact on the future of legal practice in Nigeria.
More so, i enjoin you to share this article. Do not just read and go. Make sure you keep sharing this article until it gets to the right authorities. Remember, the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. Thus, if there is a failed judiciary, then there is a failed country.
Edeh Chukwuemeka Samuel is a certified Mediator and Conciliator in Nigeria. He is currently a student at the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria. Samuel is bent on disseminating authentic information to every part of the world.