Reforming the Rank of SAN: ‘I Agree with Adegboruwa, But…’ – JS Okutepa

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JS Okutepa, SAN has endorsed the proposed reforms to the award of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria as highlighted in the article written by his learned brother silk, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa with a little dissent.

Read Okutepa’s submission below:

This morning I read the profound opinion of my learned friend of the Inner Bar, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN, on the need to reform the award of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN.

My learned brother silk put it in this most admirable manner that: “Academics as advocates – In the last exercise for the Rank of SAN, over fifty applicants were reported to have applied for elevation from the academic community. In the way it is presently, virtually every law lecturer will apply for the Rank. It is my own personal view that the award of SAN to law teachers should be abolished outrightly. The Silk cannot be an inheritance, whereby the SAN does not appear in court ten years post conferment. But if the award to law teachers must continue, then they are either given another designation or they must frontload at least five trials in contested cases in the High Court, three contested cases in the Court of Appeal and two contested cases in the Supreme Court. Why should a law teacher apply for the Rank of SAN if he has never practiced and has no intention to ever practice law?”

I completely agree with my learned brother silk Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN. We cannot continue to give the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria to those who are strictly not Advocates but who are distinguished academics.

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Their rank is professorial. That is the rank of distinction in the academics. To award the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria to the law lecturers is itself an abnormality in term of the meaning of an Advocate in Court. While some of these law lecturers are distinguished academics, it is not the same as being distinguished in Advocates for which the rank was created. As my learned brother silk Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN put it: “As at the time that I applied for the Rank, the guidelines set for the award of the Rank by the LPPC expressed the three some purpose of the award as a privilege awarded as a mark of excellence to members of the legal profession who are in full time legal practice, who have distinguished themselves as advocates and who have made significant contribution to the development of the legal profession in Nigeria”.

While it is true that law teachers have and are making significant contributions to the development of the legal profession in Nigeria, it cannot be properly argued that these law lecturers are members of the legal profession who are in full time legal practice and have distinguished themselves as advocates in our courts except of course those who lecture and at the same time have time for private legal practice.

I completely agree with the suggested reforms proposed by Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa SAN. However I am not in agreement with the suggestion that: “No Senior Advocate should merit the Rank if he has any counsel in his firm who earns less than N150,000:00 monthly and after the award, he should submit a yearly salary scale of all his junior lawyers and other employees”.

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The remuneration of counsel in Chambers should not be on the basis of the Rank but on the basis of what the counsel in Chambers knows and his or her contributions to the work in the Chambers.

There are some lawyers who have been duly called that have no value to contribute to legal practice in some law offices either in terms of knowledge, skills, industry, scholarship or what he or she knows to solve the problems the office is briefed to resolved.

Some lawyers have no business being admitted to practice law in Nigeria. Some of these young lawyers are not ready to put in efforts to know. Some are just after the money the office makes but are not interested in doing the work. Some of these young lawyers close from Chambers at will and have no appetite to work. Some are outrightly lazy and so disinterested in the progress and advancements of the law firm where they work. How then should Senior Advocates of Nigeria be made to be retaining and paying such indolent legal practitioners.

My suggestion will be that counsel should be remunerated according to their value and worth to the office. No counsel who is up and doing should be tied to fixed payment of #150,000.00 monthly. Counsel should and must be remunerated according to his or her outputs and contributions in Chambers. Those who work with me and are making efforts that produced outstanding results can testify that #150,000.00 monthly will insults their efforts and contributions to the work in the office. But those whose industry, skills and contributions are below standards should in fact be made to pay to learn in the law firms of serious minded senior Advocates of Nigeria and other serious minded senior lawyers of outstanding credit and repute. That is my suggestion.

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