Funke Busari, Lagos
The event has come to an end, However, lawyers rose after a week-long conference of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA Lagos Branch Law Week 2021 themed: “Disruption, Innovation and The Bar,” with the mindset to change the present narratives and imbibe nuggets laid at their disposal to withstand challenges capable of disrupting their profession and career growth going forward.
In a goodwill message Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, in his usual style minced no words that innovation in Nigeria’s legal profession requires urgency in both thought and action, especially in a world which currently thrives on knowledge economy, and where some jobs, including legal jobs, are being threatened by digitisation and Artificial Intelligence, AI.
He also emphasised the need for innovation in legal training and the necessity of virtual hearings.
Speaking, Osinbajo said, “Change is happening quickly all around us in every sphere of life. A sentimental clutching on to traditions will not serve us well. We have seen already that there is nothing sacrosanct about proceedings taking place in physical courtrooms. Virtual hearings are efficient and speedy, he reiterated.
Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, former Nigerian Minister of Education, expressed her view on the seeming silence of NBA concerning encroachment by the government on fundamental rights on the grounds of national security.
“I am now inciting the NBA to stop being lily-livered because it will be unfair to your children, our children and their children.”
Discussion about bringing justice delivery in Nigeria into the 21st century on the current state of justice delivery, causes of delays in justice delivery, the extent to which judicial officers should be involved in court administration and ways in which technology can be deployed to birth a justice delivery system that is fit for purpose submitted, “Every stakeholder in the administration of justice needs to have the correct mindset and be abreast with what is going on in other climes.”
Young lawyers used the occasion to encourage their employers to pay them a living wage to avoid brain drain in the legal profession in the disguise of migrating abroad for professional development.
The need for partnership and humane treatment of lawyers by their principals were stressed.
Young lawyers during the Young Lawyers, Minimum Wage, Brain Drain And Professional Development, a ‘Soro Soke!’ session which turned out an emotion-stirred part of the conference raised contemporary issues affecting them.
Caleb Adebayo, a lawyer and Dean’s Scholar at the LLM candidate New York University advocated, “I can not deny the fact that there could be a lot to be done in Nigeria’s law firms, young lawyers want mutual respect, they want to work in an environment that supports them, but there is so many things they say that makes them say I cannot continue to do this longer.”
Apparently aware of some of the challenges, young lawyers are coping with, Dr. Wale Babalakin SAN, recommended strategies critical to professional growth.
According to him the most important practical step for a lawyer in a career path is, “a lawyer must aspire.”
He noted that there is a threat of young men leaving the country to places like Canada, etc.
He also said there is room for someone who has the mindset and focus to grow, thereby seeing beyond frustrations but opportunities.