Only the best applicant in the Academic Category will be conferred with the coveted rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in the 2023 conferment exercise according to a report by City Lawyer.
The report indicates that the decision is in line with the intendment of the original drafters of the Guidelines that the award to academics should be made only in “exceptional cases.”
According to the report, aside from showing evidence of full-time teaching and research in a faculty of law in a reputable university duly accredited by both the National Universities Commission and the Council of Legal Education, a recognized legal research institute or the Nigerian Law School for at least 10 years immediately preceding the application, the applicant must be a professor in such institution, and must have been so for at least two years preceding the application, except if applicant is a Director-General of the Nigerian Law School.
Though controversy is trailing a purported ‘gazetted’ copy of the eagerly awaited 2022 Guidelines to be issued by the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) of the Body of Benchers, multiple sources say that a whopping N1 Million is the new application fee for applicants seeking to be conferred with the rank, up from N300,000 in 2013 and N600,000 in the 2018 Guidelines. This is aside from a N200,000 “processing conferment fee” for successful applicants in the last exercise. Unlike the 2013 and 2018 Guidelines, the new rules may be silent on the exact amount to be paid as application fee.
Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the LPPC has cut the period for which applicants must have attained partnership in their law firms from five to two years preceding the application.
Applications may now close on January 31 of every year, even as applicants may be required to provide the exact number of judgments required by the Guidelines and list the judgments in order of significance, unlike previously when applicants were allowed to dump as many cases as possible on the LPPC. The number of “final judgments” to be submitted by each applicant under the Advocates Category however remain unchanged at 20 judgments at the trial court level, five Court of Appeal judgments and four Supreme Court judgments.
However, in a move said to be designed to aid decongestion of court cases and ameliorate lengthy adjournments at the appellate courts, the Guidelines may provide that applicants who have valid pending appeals before the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Nigeria in which briefs have been settled prior to the making of the Guidelines and which appeals have been pending before the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court of Nigeria for a minimum of 7 (seven) years, and who are able to settle such appeals amicably by entering into terms of settlement and by submitting to consent judgments, will be permitted to count a maximum of 2 (two) such consent judgments as part of their cases. Aside from other criteria, this requirement will operate for only five years in the first instance.
The new Guidelines may contain an elaborate sanctions and disciplinary regime which bar provision of false and misleading information as well as lobbying by applicants. Defaulters will be “blacklisted” and barred from applying for the rank for three to 10 years. Accomplices who are already Senior Advocates of Nigeria may have their rank withdrawn aside from possible prosecution.
It was also gathered that the Guidelines may also codify both physical and virtual inspection of applicants’ chambers, even as the LPPC may co-opt Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) and National Association of Law Teachers (NALT) members in the screening of final judgments and articles submitted by the advocates and academics respectively.
Recall that that the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court of Nigeria & Secretary to LPPC, Hajo Sarki Bello had in a press statement dated 29th September, 2022 noted that “The meeting (of LPPC) further approved a new Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria and all matters pertaining to the rank to guide future exercises.”