Rank of SAN A Unique Privilege in Legal Profession – Aisha Salami

Aisha Salami

Congratulations to the legal practitioners recently elevated to the level of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN).

It’s not an easy feet to attain in the legal profession and most lawyers and law students alike dream to one day become Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN). As law students, it would be an error to think that it is too early to begin to aspire to become a SAN. No time is too early to aspire to this unique and prestigious privilege in the legal profession. Most importantly, we have arrived at a generation that is very daring and ambitious. You either shape in or be left behind. As a law student I already have that dream to one day have that prestigious title “SAN” attached to my name.

The rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is the highest feat attainable in the legal profession; it is modelled after the Queen’s Counsel (QC) rank in England. The award started in Nigeria in the year 1975, with Chief Frederick Rotimi Alade Williams and Dr. Nabo Graham Douglas as the first set of SAN in Nigeria. The rank finds its feet in the Legal Practitioners Act, which also sets out the constitution of the committee and the requirements for consideration.

In line with Section 5(3) of the Legal Practitioners Act CAP L11 LFN 2004, the rank is conferred by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) to be headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), and comprising of the Attorney-General of the Federation, one Justice of the Supreme court, President of the Court of Appeal, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, five Chief Judges (to be selected by the CJN and AG) and five legal practitioners who are SANs (to be selected by the CJN and AG).

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Section 5(7) of the Legal Practitioners Act 2004 enables the committee to set requirements, the basic requirements processes are as follows:

1 The award of the rank of SAN is a privileged award conferred on legal practitioners who have excelled in advocacy and in exceptional cases to members of the legal profession who are academics and have made substantial contributions to the practice of law;

2 This award is devoid of ethnic origin, gender, physical disability, marital status, age, political views and pedigree considerations;

3 There is no fixed number of persons to be conferred with the rank;

4 Candidates must be legal practitioners called to the bar and practicing in Nigeria as an advocate and must have been in active current legal practice for at least 10years immediately preceding the date of application. To determine active legal practice, the Guidelines provide that the Committee may consult the:

  • Chief Judge of the state where the candidate has his main law office; and
  • Local Branch of the NBA where the candidate has his main law office.

5 Candidates must be of good character and must have no pending disciplinary case or complaint relating to professional misconduct against him.

6 Candidates must also be competent with sound knowledge of the law, demonstrate clear qualities of leadership and loyalty to the legal profession.

7 Candidates must have paid consistently as at when due his practicing fees and membership dues to the local branch in the last 10 years preceding his application.

8 An applicant shall provide particulars of contested cases as follows:

  • 8 judgments of the High Court
  • 6 judgments of the Court of Appeal
  • 3 judgments of the Supreme Court
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9 Where he conducted the cases from the High Court to Supreme Court he will be required to submit 3 judgments of the Supreme Court to qualify but where he appeared only at the Supreme Court he will be required to provide 6 judgments of the Supreme Court to qualify.

In providing particulars of contested cases, applicants shall provide particulars of recent cases decided within 10years preceding the date of application and which demonstrate that the applicant is:

  1. Currently engaged in full time legal practice; and
  2. Abreast with current developments in the field of law.
  3. He must have been involved in the provision of at least 3 pro bono legal services to indigent clients or some form of community service.
  4. He must present evidence of income tax payment paid as and when due for a period of 3 years preceding the application.
  5. A candidate should have or be a partner in chambers considered by the Committee to have good and up to date facilities.
  6. For candidates in partnership, the committee shall consider the deed of partnership as proof of the said partnership.
  7. For academics, an applicant must have distinguished himself and must have made substantial contribution to legal scholarship and jurisprudence through teaching, research and published works in any Nigerian University, Research Institute, Nigerian Law School and other recognized institutions.
  8. In addition, such an applicant must furnish at least 20 copies of his published works to the Committee alongside his application.

To be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria comes with privileges. SANs enjoy the privilege of sitting at the inner bar or front roll seat if there is no provision for the inner bar. The overall privilege is that SANs have their cases called first before every other legal practitioner present in court. This is a very big advantage especially as it gives them the opportunity to quickly conduct their matters early enough. It also affords them the opportunity of appearing before more than one Judge for their matters.

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SANs are also seen in the eyes of members of the public as the ones who are repositories of cases and vast experience who can successfully prosecute their cases at all times.

To even aspire to be a SAN, you must have been at least  10 years at the bar; have a mind blowing library; made substantial contributions to the legal profession and generally distinguished yourself. It is a prestigious rank that carries with it the peak of nobility.

Rank of SAN is a unique privilege.

Aisha Salami is a law graduate of Lagos State University awaiting to be admitted to the Law School.




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