Whither the Nigeria Legal Practice in the ICT World!

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Once upon a time, during my LLB study, I remember a time when my group was asked to get information on the AGIS (Abuja Geographic Information Systems). We all did not prepare for what we were about to experience. We thought the information was only a click away. To our shock, there was no relevant information on the website for us!  In fact, the website had not been updated since 2013.  How disappointing. Yet finding out that the same apply even worst to legal practice in Nigeria was most disappointing. Where are we in this global village I ask?

In 21st century a lawyer still dissipates time, resources and effort preparing for a case only be informed that court would not sit inside the court room after waiting for hours. This happens only in Nigeria and to Nigeria lawyers.  There is always no explanation for the “court will not sit” announcement.. If the Registrar knows the reason for “court not sitting” they are often reasons not good enough and not commiserate with the tie wasted.. Surprisingly, Nigeria lawyers even the “very senior titled ones” all take this without as much as an expression of the slightest disappointment leaving you sometimes to wonders whether lawyers prefer that their times are wasted.

It is no longer news that the world has become a global village. There is hardly any aspect of our lives that has not witnessed the impact of information technology.

Professions all over the world have embraced information technology while a few can no longer function without it. Many in this present age are more inclined to getting information by just sitting in the comfort of their living rooms to browse the internet.

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Legal profession in other clime are not left out in this advancement; all over the world practitioners are making continuous efforts to become ICT compliant. Nigeria lawyers are the only ones sitting by and watching the world go by.

Lawyers in Nigeria are paying little or no attention to this trend. There is no gain saying that many have been left behind while many would simply become so irrelevant and obsolete. Today’s clientele are those that would require that you either shape in or shape out.

ICT is gradually distinguishing the “men from the boys” yet it only requires more of the will than the effort. Today a few law firms in Nigeria have become so compliant that without more, they rank among the tops in Africa and the world. On the other hand, there is in the majority, those who believe that the profession is cast in stone and must maintain its colonial features which make them allergic to anything dynamic change.

Where ever you find yourself in this divide, it is important to state that the world is moving on and would ultimately leave many practitioners in Nigeria behind.

In this day and age, once you hear that a firm is really good, the first instinct which is often intuitive is “search for them on the internet”. Without wasting time, you tend to obey your heart, however in Nigeria, many a time you get the shocker of your life. They are nowhere to be found in the global village where things really happen! The desire to see some of their works or something to prove the ‘goodness’ and ‘expertise’ that they have heard of without physically visiting their firm has been made impossible.

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These majority practitioners in Nigeria believe that they have achieved the highest success, yet, they are not heard of even in more than two states in Nigeria. Success is relative but the common determinant of success is that it is very obvious and it is always difficult to control its spread. Therefore if you do not have your practice in the world global map for the right reasons, if all you do is operate within your vicinity without anything to offer to the world and without leaving a land mark in the global sands of time, I dare say your success is local and would soon become obsolete.

It is high time Nigerian lawyers, Judges, law firms and even government legal departments stepped up in the ICT advancement.  The truth is that the firm that has more online presence always appears to have an edge over the one that keeps it analogue and local.

In this day, time and age, many people become popular through social media and the legal profession is not expected to be behind. The fact that majority of the people in this world would rather search for an information on the internet than elsewhere, makes it important for every person who has information to provide such information online.

A firm that wants its activities and expertise to be recognised or known, needs to have an ‘online’ presence and so does a government legal department.  It is important that law firms start aggressive on the job ICT training. It has become an emergency for law firms to have their activities online.

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There should be wide embrace of ICT in every aspect of the practice from the very beginning. Of all the courses borrowed in LLB, Computer studies and ICT training should be made next to the study of law. Nigeria lawyers should wake up to this reality.

Let the delay in the wheel of justice be overcome by imbibing all the positive things that ICT has to offer.

Abigail Somoye: abigailsomoye@gmail.com

Abigail is a graduate of law from the University of Sheffield UK. 

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