A reg­u­la­tory body for law firms in Nige­ria

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Daniel Bu­lus­son ESQ

Apres­i­den­tial as­pi­rant for the Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion in his cam­paign man­i­festo pro­poses a reg­u­la­tory body to set stan­dard for law firms in Nige­ria if he wins the elec­tion. This body, ac­cord­ing to him, will de­ter­mine if a firm has req­ui­site po­ten­tial, or bet­ter still, pack­aged en­vi­ron­ment to op­er­ate as a law firm.

It is wor­thy to note at this point, for the avoid­ance of any mis­con­cep­tion, that the essence of this ar­ti­cle is not to can­vass sup­port for the said can­di­date or any other but rather, a dis­cus­sion on the pos­si­bil­ity or oth­er­wise of a con­cept new to our le­gal system.

It is no longer news that the law street is lit­tered with law shops which or­di­nar­ily should not op­er­ate as a law firm in Nige­ria, we are talk­ing about law firms cited as bad ex­am­ples to law stu­dents in law school, a one bed room/ shop of­fice, no sec­re­tary, just a lawyer wait­ing at the desk for a client to come into the of­fice. This kind of firms give the pro­fes­sion a bad name.

It is also true that young lawyers with­out the req­ui­site ex­po­sure and ex­pe­ri­ence fresh from law school rush into open­ing a law firm, some have ar­gued that they have done well so far and re­ally don’t need num­ber of years un­der some­one to start up. Oth­ers be­lieve that a tute­lage pe­riod is nec­es­sary be­fore a young lawyer es­tab­lishes his own firm, as the run­ning of a firm goes beyond the struc­ture, the or­ga­ni­za­tion of the firm and its op­er­a­tion mat­ters a lot, so also is re­la­tion­ship be­tween lawyers and client, how you file cases and so on.

Which begs the ques­tion; should there be such a reg­u­la­tory body in the NBA that would li­cense the oper­a­tions of law firms in Nige­ria based on the stan­dard of of­fice, management style and the wel­fare pack­ages of your em­ploy­ees? If the an­swer is in the af­fir­ma­tive, what is the ef­fect or im­pact of such reg­u­la­tory body to the le­gal pro­fes­sion?

Some have ar­gued that the pro­gram is not fea­si­ble and the reg­u­la­tory committee will in­fringe on the em­ployer’s right to de­ter­mine what to pay his em­ploy­ees thus lead­ing to lit­i­ga­tion, oth­ers are say­ing that a min­i­mum wage would lead to high un­em­ploy­ment as firms that could af­ford fif­teen {15} thou­sand naira monthly for four young lawyers might be forced to re­duce their work­force to ac­com­mo­date the min­i­mum wage.

Reg­u­la­tory frame­works are evolv­ing across sec­tors and across the world, why then should the le­gal pro­fes­sion not tap into such frame­work and fash­ion modal­i­ties to up­grade prac­tice stan­dards to place us at par with in­ter­na­tional col­leagues?

There should be ex­cel­lent le­gal prac­tice management and client care in the Nige­rian Le­gal System, a reg­u­la­tory body would serve the pur­pose of set­ting the re­quired stan­dard for struc­ture and strat­egy, fi­nan­cial management, file and case management, client care and ad­e­quate wel­fare pack­ages for ju­nior lawyers un­der their em­ploy.

But then the Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion while es­tab­lish­ing such reg­u­la­tory body must also en­sure that the Na­tional Assem­bly passes leg­is­la­tions that would open up the le­gal pro­fes­sion, just to men­tion one out of many, le­gal doc­u­ments like deeds, agree­ments, af­fi­davits etc should only be en­force­able by a court of law if pre­pared or franked by a Le­gal Prac­ti­tioner.

This would go a long way to re­duc­ing the rate of un­em­ploy­ment that such reg­u­la­tory committee might pos­si­bly cause. It is my hum­ble opin­ion that if a stan­dard is set be­fore law firms are al­lowed to op­er­ate, this would in­sti­tu­tion­al­ize the firms in the coun­try and en­cour­age part­ner­ship amongst col­leagues both be­tween se­niors and ju­niors alike.

In sum, the pres­ence of such reg­u­la­tory body would at least re­duce the num­ber of quack law shops lit­ter­ing the cor­ri­dors of the pro­fes­sion, and serve as a booster for se­niors who have good and com­fort­able firms but are lax on up­grad­ing their firm to fit the cur­rent global trend like be­ing ICT com­pli­ant for cor­re­spon­dences to be made by email, on­line re­search etc.

Please send your com­ment{s}, rec­om­men­da­tion {s} or ob­ser­va­tion{s} to daniel­bu­lus­son@gmail.com

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