REFLECTIONS: WELFARE OF YOUNG LAWYERS AND RELATED ISSUES – PAUL USORO, SAN FCIArb

We will be featuring a series of memoirs following the thoughts of the learned Silk, Paul Usoro, SAN speaking to issues that are dear to his heart.

Today’s edition follows the Welfare of Young Lawyers and Related issues. His thoughts are deep and enamouring …

Introducing the Journey

One of the hottest topics on the lips of everyone, is the poor welfare package for young lawyers and this is for understandable reasons. The demographics of lawyers shows a distantly outnumbered senior lawyers as against the growing multitude of young lawyers. Indeed, the Nigerian Law School has been turning out, on a yearly basis, a great number of young lawyers such that, it is beginning to seem that there are more young lawyers scrambling and rushing after increasingly fewer job opportunities and spaces. For those who are lucky to be employed, the consistent complaint that I’ve heard countrywide centers around poor remuneration packages which, in some cases, is as low as N10,000.00 salary/wage per month and in some instances even less.
With such poor income and in a country where social security network is unheard of, the living conditions of most young lawyers can only be imagined. And yet, our pride and distinction as lawyers lie not only in our erudition but also in our get-up and appearance. The truth is, no matter how erudite a lawyer may be, his appearance speaks first for him even before he utters a word. A shabby-looking lawyer, no matter how erudite, hardly commands audience nor respect. In that circumstance, it is actually a miracle that more of our young lawyers do not suffer from low self-esteem caused by poor living conditions and wages. It is therefore imperative, urgent and critical, beyond election pitches and rhetoric, that we take the amelioration of living conditions for young lawyers seriously, as an Association of Nigerian lawyers.

So, what can, in practical terms, be done to ameliorate the welfare conditions of young lawyers – and by extension, lawyers generally? What are the issues that should engage the NBA in working at solutions to this deleterious position? I invite you to journey with me as I examine, in succeeding parts of this article, the causative factors of this problem and the remediation steps that we should take, individually and as an Association of Nigerian lawyers, to remedy the situation. I will, in those succeeding articles, also x-ray some matters that are related to this over-arching and central welfare issue which should engage our attention as well.

Let me however put in some required caveats at this inception of our journey: First, I do not believe that there is a magic wand or a one-size-fit-all solution that would resolve the welfare issue in one fell swoop. I believe that the consistent application of a raft of solutions may be required as a remedy to this cancerous problem and even then, we must have constant updating reviews and dialogue on the issue – and such reviews and dialogues must involve the relevant stakeholders, notably but not limited to the young lawyers.

Second caveat: I am not inclined towards a flat and regulated lawyer-centric national minimum wage pronouncement as has been suggested by some; this may not work and may not even be enforceable – and we will in the subsequent parts of this article elaborate on the reasons for our skepticism.

For the moment, please, join me as we examine the causative factors and the required probable remediation steps which the NBA can take in that regard and other related issues in the succeeding parts of this article.

To be continued …

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