Career Opportunities for Lawyers and Place of Skills, Ethics and Values in Successful Law Practice

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Law School

By Sylvester Udemezue 

[Excerpts from a paper titled, “So, You Want To Be A Lawyer: Career Prospects in the Legal Profession, Skills and Ethics Taught at the Nigerian Law School and NLS Students’ and Lecturers’ Expectations” by Sylvester C. Udemezue (Udems) (a paper delivered on December 03, 2021, at the Academic Induction Workshop for New Students of the Nigerian Law School in the 2021/2022 Academic Session]

A Career Opportunities In the Law Profession

  1. Advocacy;
  2. Solicitorship;
  3. In-house Law Job;
  4. Brief-Writing;
  5. Law Teaching;
  6. Law Writing;
  7. Law Consulting;
  8. ADR Practice & Consultancy;
  9. Adjudication (Justices, Judges, Magistrates, Chairmen of Tribunals)
  10. Judicial Assistance & Consultancy
  11. Company Secretarial Job/Administration
  12. Research Assistance
  13. Law Reporting
  14. Law Journalism (Law Editors, Columnists, Law Correspondents, etc in the Print, Broadcasting and New Media and Publishing Houses)
  15. Law Capacity Development Practice (organising workshops, seminars, webinars, conferences, etc)
  16. Legislative Drafting;
  17. Legislation (NOTE: being a legislator is entirely different from being a legislative draftsman. Only lawyers can be legislative draftsmen. On the other hand, you do not need to be a lawyer in order to be a legislator, although lawyers can be legislators and indeed make better legislators if they have requisite skills)
  18. Law Publishing/Blogging
  19. Conveyancing
  20. Military and Para-Military careers
  21. Law ICT Resources and Support Development & Consultancy
  22. Education (Law Education; setting up schools for teaching/training in law courses, skills, values and ethics)

B. Skills Necessary to Excel in the Law Profession 

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Advocacy Skills
  3. Interpretation Skills
  4. Legal Writing Skills (includes all manner of law writing: writing of briefs, letters, agreements, articles, books, papers, legal opinions, memos, reports, etc)
  5. Legal Drafting Skils
  6. Management Skills
  7. Judgment writing Skills
  8. Secretarial Administration Skills
  9. Reading Skills
  10. Interviewing Skills
  11. Law Profession
  12. Analytical Skills
  13. Logical Reasoning Skills
  14. Report Writing Skills
  15. Law Reporting Skills
  16. ICT Skills
  17. Interpersonal Relationship Skills
  18. Team-Working Skills
  19. Time Management Skills
  20. Creative problem solving Skills;
  21. Organisation Skills (ability to prioritise and remain focused among competing priorities)
  22. Resilience and self-confidence skills
  23. Skills for Attention to details
  24. Commercial Awareness Skills (includes making deliberate and consistent efforts and taking steps to keep constantly in the know of current developments in local, national and world space in the field/profession, particularly issues likely to impact a law firm and or its clients)
  25. Legal Ethics-Observance Skills — Ethics itself is not necessarily a law skill, but ability to observe legal ethics and values requires cultivation of some habit/skill. Besides, success in any of the above-named law careers depends, not only on sufficient possession of requisite knowledge and skills, but also and especially on the practitioner’s willingness and ability to diligently imbibe and faithfully observe the ethics and values of the law profession and of his/her area of specialization. Truth is, law floats in a sea of ethics. This is perhaps why Kilroy J. Oldster said, “Any attorney with a conscience always speaks the truth. An attorney can and should practice law in a scrupulous manner…”.Laws and principles are not only for the times when there is no temptation; they are also for such moments when body and soul rise in mutiny against laws, ethics and principles. If at one’s convenience, one might break the laws and principles ethics, then what would be their worth? “Ethics is doing more than the law requires and less than the law allows”, says Michael Josephson. Potter Stewart puts it this way: “Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do”. American author and philosopher Aldo Leopold once said “Ethical behaviour is doing the right thing when no one else is watching— [and] even when doing the wrong thing is legal.” Generally, observance of legal ethics is not a matter of choice or of convenience, but of prime obligation; being a good lawyer is inseparable from being an ethical lawyer. More often than not, ethical dilemmas occur when, in the practice of our profession, we find ourselves in situations or circumstances that conflict with our personal values (convictions) and legal ethics. It need to be said here that no one needs observance of professional ethics and values more than Law Teachers. Professional ethics is like a guide, which facilitates the teacher to provide quality education and inculcate good values among the learners. … It also helps the teachers to understand their profession asteachers. Their role is not just to become supreme and authoritarian in front of their students and colleagues (See: R. Joshi https://www.academia.edu). Some of the main aims of ethics and values in legal/laweducation are to stimulate ethical reflection, awareness, responsibility, and compassion, to provide insight into important ethical principles and values, and to equip an individual with key cognitive and noncognitive (moral) intellectual capacities (See: Michael Peters <https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry).  According to Mary Gentile, author of Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind when You Know What’s Right, the best and the easiest way to abide by ethics is for people to feel moved to act or to express their values even when they find themselves in situations and circumstances which conflict with them, regardless of who is watching or whether it is legal. Emphasizing the crucial role of practice in the process of acquisition and observance of the ethical code of behaviour, Gentle says this could be achieved through what she described as “the three steps to ethical behaviour”: preparing, anticipating, and practising (PAP). At the Nigerian Law School, Professional Legal Ethics and practice skills are taught and learned through a combination of various modes, namely:
  • During the Professional Ethics & Skills Module lectures and interactive sessions;
  • During Interactive Sessions in each of the other four Modules;
  • During Mentoring Sessions and other formal interactions between lecturers and aspirants to the bar;
  • During Special Lectures, delivered to Law School students from time to time, in the course of their program at the NLS;
  • During Portfolio Assessment;
  • During the Externship Program (in Courts and Law offices)
  • During Moot and Mock Trials and practice sessions;
  • Through Personal Efforts and Self Development;
  • Through Constant Practice — Whatever you have to learn to do, you learn faster by actually doing it. In respect of ethics, etc ., see also the following:
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(i)  “An Appraisal of Legal Ethics and Proper Conduct for Lawyers in Nigeria” by S. C. Udemezue. (2021) Vol. 21, No. 17, Jun 3, 2021, Legal Ethics & Professional Responsibility eJournal. <https://hq.ssrn.com/Journals/IssueProof.cfm?abstractid=3842835&journalid=205108&issue_number=17&volume=21&journal_type=CMBO&function=showissue> accessed December 03, 2021

(ii) “Contemporary Training at the Nigerian Law school: An Insider’s Account” by S. C. Udemezue. <https://udemsyl.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/education-at-the-nigerian-law-school-an-insiders-acount/> accessed December 03, 2021

(iii) “Nigerian Law School Program is Not ‘Self-taught’ But Teacher-Taught, Teacher-Driven in Line with Contemporary Benchmarks and International Best Practices” by S. C. Udemezue <http://loyalnigerianlawyer.com/nigerian-law-school-program-is-not-self-taught-but-teacher-taught-teacher-driven-in-line-with-contemporary-benchmarks-and-international-best-practices/> accessed December 03, 2021.

(iv) How Young Lawyers Can Survive And Thrive” By S.C. Udemezue <https://citylawyermag.com/2020/07/20/how-young-lawyers-can-survive-and-thrive-by-udemezue/> accessed December 03, 2021 

(v) “Hints for Academic Excellence (to Help You Excel at Bar Final Examinations)” by S.C. Udemezue <https://dnllegalandstyle.com/2021/udems-hints-for-academic-excellence-to-help-you-excel-at-bar-final-examinations/> accessed December 03, 2021.

  • NOTE: There are many other career opportunities for lawyers but not necessarily within the legal profession. Examples abound of so many other things lawyers can do and do very effectively. Take as examples, politics, other businesses or trade; manufacturing, etc. There is a difference between “Career Opportunities In the Law Profession” and “Careeer Opportunities for Lawyers”. Sometimes, the dividing line is thin becasue some careers appear difficult to categorize. However, one easy way of distinguishing the two classes is to note that the latter class of opportunities appears much wider in scope than the former, in that the latter comprises all careers within the former and much more falling outside it. But it is the former class that mostly requires professional legal skills for attainment of excellence, although some of these law/legal skills may be essential for excellence even when a lawyers takes up a career that falls well outside the law/legal profession. For an example, a lawyer in politics needs, among others, some legal skills to succeed even in politics (communication, inter-personal relationship, teamwork, organisation, time management, creative problem-solving, Resilience and self-confidence skills, Skills for Attention to details, Commercial Awareness Skills, Ethics-Observance, among others)
  • The main paper, which discusses these points in details, will be published shortly.
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Thank you and best regards.

Respectfully,

Sylvester C. Udemezue

(08109024556, udemsyl@gmail.com).

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