By P. D. Pius, Esq.
I want to advise you. I know my advice may be useless to the wise because they are already wise. It may also be useless to fools because they may not take it. However, I feel strongly the need to warn that the legal profession is heading towards the path of self-destruction unless new lawyers like you make a difference.
During your call to bar, many lawyers in large number were also called. The question that may confront you is how to compete for scarce jobs or opportunities or clients in order to smile to the bank or make ends meet. There are some lawyers who think that there are no jobs for lawyers and there are too many lawyers in Nigeria.
I want you to know that there are lawyers who know their onions and their are lawyers. I have a strong feeling that, there are few competent lawyers in all fields including Litigation, Property Law, Estate, Family Law, Immigration, Space Law, Intellectual Property or even my darling Election Law to cite a few examples.
It is very hard to meet a lawyer whose practice will marvel you with show of amazing skill, competence, knowledge and professionalism. 70-80 % of lawyers I have met are well below average in terms of quality of service. Please do not be below average. Whatever you choose to do, be a master of the game. Horn your skills and be the best. It is said that when men stand, be outstanding and when men are outstanding, then be the standard.
I feel very strongly that if we increase our quality of service, we will soon realized that there are few lawyers in this country. It is because we are not serving well, that is why we are not in high demand. Consider your service as a product in market. Ask your self, how will my service add real time value to my client? How efficient is my service? How fast can I offer a legal solution to my clients. It is not about sheer legalism without adding real value to the society. Most of us have lost sight of our ultimate social purpose as lawyers, which is to offer the service of justice delivery and add real time value to the society. Do not join those lawyers who are killing the profession with delays and other unwholesome Practices in justice delivery to the detriment of the profession as a whole. I will give you examples.
Most defence lawyers engage in delay tactics. Worse is that even some Plaintiff or prosecution lawyers are culpable. There is a matter in my hand now that the Plaintiff is not serious at all. For 4 years he has failed to open his case. A litigant who goes to court to recover N500,000 may end up spending 250,000 litigating and the case could last for 2-3 years before it is concluded. After waiting for this long, the case can be dismissed on one technical point or the other. What value has he gotten. Even in a rare case that he wins, the lawyer Judge will award no cost of litigation or a paltry N10,000 cost. I mean! What value has been gained? So how do you expect this litigant to brief another lawyer about another case next time? Or even refer someone else to a lawyer? He will go home feeling that lawyers can’t provide him with solution. So he looks for alternatives like police, efcc, self-help, etc. So do not join those who offer poor Services and thereby drive away the confidence of the society to continue to patronize lawyers.
Have you wondered why police are doing civil debt recovery everyday despite numerous decisions of Court against it? It’s because our service as lawyers is ineffective and someone must fill that gap. I have read some legal documents poorly prepared by lawyers and I am amazed how poor our service is getting day by day. It is common these days to see a poorly drafted legal document flying in the media space for fun. Hausa man will say “Haba!”
Clients cannot continue to patronize us simply because the law says a work should be done by lawyers or court. No! That is not how market works. Clients are looking for satisfaction within the confines of the law. Most of our practices do not add any real time value to clients. The legal profession must look at itself in mirror and redress otherwise in no distant time there will be no work for all lawyers. The solution is with you the new wigs. Do not join those destroying the profession. Most senior lawyers are already comfortable in life or have few days left of life. It is you that will inherit a profession without jobs if you destroy it. So never lower your guard. Do not compromise standard. Do not put your name on a process or document not worthy of a lawyer. Do not sacrifice standard and professionalism for a plate of soup. Do not sell your birthrights.
The simple question I ask you is this, are we effectively serving the purpose for which the profession is established by the society? If your answer is no, the society will replace us. That is certain to happen unless halted. It’s beyond our individual feeling of success in delaying justice delivery service for whatever reason we can lay hands on. Today, the 29th day of July 2021, a supposed old lawyer told me to my face after Court that she will make sure she delay my case by filing frivolous objections and appeals. Two of my juniors were listening to her. I was marvelled. I wondered what has happened to the ethics of the profession.
What has happened to the ethical rule that your duty is to stand up for justice and not to delay a case or harass your opponent with Court processes you know are frivolous, baseless or vexatious?
There are numerous other examples in several other areas of Practice. Whatever you choose to do with your call to bar certificate, please do not join those embarrassing the legal profession with poor, unproductive, unqualitative and unprofessional Services.
Be a light that shines bright before those coming after you. Aspire to leave the profession better than you met it. Create legally acceptable solutions. Think outside the box. The writ of summons, originating summons etc that you have learnt are Lawyesomeone’s invention. So develop the law towards efficient, just, speedy and affordable justice delivery. Do not join those destroying the profession.
Add value and you will receive even more value. Finally, I believe that whatever you cannot do very well for free, you cannot do it for money. It sounds stupid to think I was doing Election cases for free until someone I served very well for free referred to me my first six digits brief. Don’t do do anyhow because it’s pro bono. Always keep standard. See you in court!
P. D. Pius, Esq