A senior lawyer, Mr Ajibola Oluyede, has said lawyers ought to pay more attention to building a good professional reputation than striving to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
According to Oluyede, the award of the SAN rank may have become a way of institutionalising mediocrity in the legal profession.
He argued that the pursuit of excellence in the legal profession had fallen by the wayside as many lawyers had been caught in the rat race “to procure this title (SAN) by hook or crook.”
Oluyede, who has repeatedly said he has never applied and would never apply for the SAN title despite being called to the Bar in 1981, described the title as “a vestige of our colonial mentality,” which, he said, no longer served any useful purpose.
He criticised the rank selection process for “breeding corruption, ethnic jingoism, unethical lobbying and desperation.”
He expressed the fear that the young generation of lawyers could be misled to think that they could not strive for excellence in practice or make any contribution until they become SANs.
Oluyede said this in an article titled, “The Legal Profession and its Future,” directed at the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association ahead of the association’s Annual General Conference holding in Lagos between August 23 and 29.
While commending the theme of the conference, “Facing the Future,” Oluyede said it indicated that leading legal practitioners in the country understood that the future of legal practice in Nigeria was being threatened as “over 75 per cent of Nigerians today find no relevance for lawyers in their lives.”
He identified congestion of the courts and slow justice as parts of the drawbacks for ordinary people to seek redress in court.
Oluyede said the problem of court congestion had become so bad that it was making many lawyers desperate to become SANs because SANs enjoy the privilege of being attended to in court before other lawyers.
“I believe that resolving the scheduling problems of the courts alone will go a long way in reducing the desperation fuelling the almost mindless pursuit of the title of SAN.
“This scheduling mess makes a mockery of our justice administration system and further cements the mediocrity that the rank of SAN seems designed to institutionalise.
“I am not criticising SANs here; I am criticising the entire concept. I believe that it is anachronistic, unnecessary and unconstitutional.
“It is a vestige of our colonial mentality and has served no useful purpose in the profession that I can point to other than creating a mythical class of lawyers who are, mainly undeservedly, regarded as the best in the profession,” Oluyede said.
Oluyede, who said he knew many outstanding lawyers who were not SANs, called for a review of the process of awarding the title.
“The gross repugnance of the scheme to good conscience in Nigeria is made more palpable by the mad rush for the title, which has now resulted in desperate seekers engaging or acquiescing in grave malpractices and corruption in a bid to acquire this ‘mythical rank’ that (I am told) immediately transforms them into wealthy, successful lawyers,” he said.
Furthermore, Oluyede expressed concern about the migration of lawyers to either Lagos or Abuja, once they become SANs, where they claim to be experts in areas of law where they had never practised.
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