A foremost Legal Practitioner and Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law says thus;
” To an average individual, the mention of a lawyer and legal practice may bring to mind no more than the picture of a courtroom where there is an accused in the dock, a lawyer who is defending him on one side, the prosecutor who wants him convicted and jailed, on the other side the judge. Over the years the scope of lawyers role has evolved and the frontiers for their reliance broadened”.
Nigerian Legal System operates a fusion of barrister and Solicitor wherein a legal practitioner who is enrolled in Nigeria bar practices law as both an advocate, and a solicitor. This fusion in law practice gives every legal practitioner an opportunity to engage virtually in general practice or specialize.
Apart from litigation, there are several aspects or specialized practices of the law such as Commercial, Business, Arbitration, Corporate, and intellectual Law practice a lawyer can practice, hence Law practice is not stereotyped to Litigation.
There are bulks of Commercial, intellectual, and Business Law practice which several Legal Practitioners have taken advantage of the inherent opportunities, build competencies, made name, fame and Money, attracted International and Global recognitions, Won global and Local awards, carve a niche for themselves, but are yet to be admitted to the inner bar which is the most success story at the bar.
It is evident that Litigation practice is a criteria of becoming a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. An Applicant for the conferment of SAN must show that He or She has handled number of cases in courts including Supreme Court. This shows that the more cases a counsel handles in these Courts, the better his prospects to meet the criteria of becoming a SAN.
On the other hand, there is an opportunity provided for in the Guidelines for the Award of SAN for Law Academicians. These academicians must distinguish themselves, and have made substantial contributions to legal scholarship and jurisprudence through teaching, research and published works in any Nigerian University, Research Institute, Nigerian Law School and other recognized institutions.
Apart from Litigation knowledge and Academics, there is no provision in the Guidelines for the conferment of the Rank of SAN for Legal Practitioners per excellence in Arbitration, Commercial, Business, Corporate and intellectual law practice.
In England, where our Legal System emancipated, Solicitors maybe appointed as Queens Attorney or Counsel which is an equivalent rank of SAN in Nigeria. This Country has recognized the role of Solicitors in the development of the Law in England.
In Nigeria, there are Legal practitioners in several or specialized aspects of law practice other than litigation and Academics who made us to witness some robust development and new frontiers in various fields of law. These practitioners brought transparency, limelight, and helped in widening the scope of law practice. I commend the likes of Messrs Olumide Akpata, Asue Ighodalo, Funke Agbor, Oyebode, Ajibola Oluyede and Doyin Rhodes Vivour(a skilful arbitrator)
Majority of these Nigerian based Legal practitioners are frontiers, founders, and partners of Top notch law firms in Nigeria. The quality of legal services deliverable by these law firms and their frontiers have attracted several local, global and international recognitions, awards, applaud, and accolades. These firms have good and quality library, quality and quantity office space, 60-80 lawyers, 8-15 support staffs, and a proper books of accounts. Some frontiers, founders and partners of these top notch law firm’s have integrity, Sound knowledge of the Law, Leadership Qualities, Good behavior, good character and reputation, honest, and had contributed to the development of the law through their specialized Fields.
Although, these group of practitioners may lag sound knowledge on litigation because of their apathy for litigation. Since law practice is not stereotyped to Litigation, it is the writer’s opinion that award of SAN should not be stereotyped to Litigation Lawyers and Law Academicians.
Therefore, I strongly opined and humbly call upon the erudite members of LPPC, Body of Bencher, NBA Executives etc for possible amendment of the guidelines for the conferment of SAN to incorporate other aspects of law practice mentioned above as an alternative to Litigation and/or Academics requirement for SAN. This amendment will produce more experts in Corporate, business, intellectual and Commercial law practice from Litigation who are afraid of leaving litigation in other not to lose chance of becoming SAN.
Miracle Akusobi, Esq.