The regulatory framework underpinning the legal profession in Nigeria calls for review, with the aim of raising the standard of the profession. I will, if elected the NBA President, embark upon regulatory reforms with a view to achieving the said goal. The envisaged reforms will cover the areas of professional ethics and discipline, legal education and criteria for admission into the profession, continuing legal education, and legal practice generally. The key components of my Regulatory reform agenda will include the following.
I. I will work in consultation and partnership with all relevant stakeholders, to facilitate the repeal and replacement of the extant Legal Practitioners Act (LPA) with a view to reflecting current trends and developments regarding admission to the legal profession, legal education, training, compulsory continuing legal education, professional ethics, discipline, and other aspects of the legal profession that are relevant to legal practice in the 21st century.
II. My administration will consult with all relevant stakeholders and work towards the implementation of the adopted recommendations of the NBA Legal Profession Regulation Review Committee one of which is the repeal and replacement of the LPA. The report, which deals with issues affecting the regulation of the legal profession in Nigeria, is far reaching and comprehensive its scope and recommendations and requires a holistic and comprehensive review by all stakeholders with a view to upscaling the regulatory framework of the legal profession, as appropriate.
III. As part of the afore-mentioned regulatory reforms, I will ensure that the Association facilitates the review of the Rules of Professional Conduct with a view to bringing them up-to-date with current and emerging global trends in the delivery of legal services. This will go a long way in enhancing the standards of professional ethics in the legal profession in Nigeria.
IV. I believe that the Nigerian Law School (NLS) Externship Programme should be designed to teach Law Students practical skills in legal practice. To attain that goal, Pupillage program could and should be incorporated into our NLS pre-qualification process and used to impart practical training to our trainee lawyers, both in advocacy and solicitor’s practice. If adopted as part of the qualifying process, the program should be regulated by the Council of Legal Education and the firms to which the trainee lawyers are attached must be firms with prescribed minimum standards.
V. I will partner with relevant stakeholders including the Nigerian Universities Commission and the Council of Legal Education to review the LL.B degree curriculum in order to enhance the quality of legal education and introduce new areas of practice into the Universities’ curricula in line with emerging trends and technological disruptions in Nigeria. I will also work with these stakeholders to review the admissions policies into Law Faculties of Nigerian Universities.
VI. The planned reforms would also inculcate and institutionalize structured mentorship programmes – a program which, I believe, the NBA should encourage and entrench. Such structured mentorship program could involve, amongst others, periodic visits by young lawyers who are practising in the provincial NBA branches to structured Law Firms in cosmopolitan cities to learn, first-hand, law office management and the practice of law.
VII. I will work to reform and revamp the management and mechanisms of the NBA complaints and disciplinary processes with the aim of making the processes more efficient and timeous. It is not uncommon to hear complaints from members of the public who get frustrated by the delays in having their complaints to the NBA against lawyers processed and treated. There is also a perception that the disciplinary process may not be vested with full autonomy and independence. Our comprehensive review and reform of the disciplinary system and processes would ensure its independence, effectiveness and efficiency and this will in turn engender public confidence.
PAUL USORO, SAN, FCIArb