Between Being A Lawyer Ambition & Struggling Economic Community: Need For Strategic Plan
By: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.
Almost every student in the Arts department in the senior secondary school would like to become a lawyer as an ambition. Also, parents have been (over the years) proud to have their children become lawyers and would go to any extent to support and or sponsor their children to aspire to become lawyers. More so, where money is not the problem, it is easy to sponsor such child to complete his or her law ambition. Also, many poor families sell their property (real i.e. land or personal) in order to ensure that their children or child succeeds in become a lawyer. Also, goals are placed on such child that whenever he or she completes the study and finally becomes a lawyer, at least, he can take up the responsibilities of the family and those of his siblings’ education.
However, there is the struggling community where a lawyer after being called to the bar finds no job around himself. A community where there is high competition over a brief and the one who is connected is able to secure the retainership of brief. A community where a lawyer is tagged as ‘charged and bailed’. A community where a lawyer’s value is exploited rather than being valued. A community where the government of the country has no plan for the development of the lawyer called to bar. This paper therefore calls for a strategic plan in creating more opportunities or more career opportunities for lawyers in Nigeria.
First and foremost, I humbly submit that the National Assembly has the power to create enabling opportunities for lawyers by virtue of its constitutional powers conferred on it by Part I of the Second Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)-herein after referred to as the Constitution- which is the (Exclusive Legislative List) which provides that ‘Professional occupations as may be designated by the National Assembly’. With due respect to the National Assembly, this power has only been used in regulating the legal profession rather than utilizing such power to enable and or create more overwhelming opportunities or career opportunities for lawyers or young lawyers as can be said. This attitude of the National Assembly in my humble view, requires a review for a strategic plan in the interest of the nation and that of the legal profession.
Furthermore, some students are called to bar without any career goal. They are called to bar just because someone or their parents had forced or compel them to study law. In my humble view, where there are capacity building programme for young lawyers, these lawyers would take their certificate home and thank their parents for the wonderful opportunities that they have given to them to be lawyers rather than singing the song of being compelled by their parents or guardian (who actually must have decided in good faith for them, though, I have always discouraged the attitude of parents or guardians forcing their children or wards to study a particular course against his or her interest or wish). I always commend the giant attitude of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch (Unity Bar), for organizing a monthly discussion series for lawyers in order to build their capacity and create more career opportunities for lawyers so that apart from those courses studied in the tertiary institution, one can also find a specialization and create an enabling environment for himself. I would also commend the efforts of some other branches of the association that have concerns over the future and career development of young lawyers. I would also advise that the Nigerian Bar Association at the National Level too should create more of these kinds of opportunities.
Furthermore, despite the known struggling situation of the community, lawyers are always required to pay high price for almost everything including the Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association. How will such lawyer who cannot even earn to pay his house rent or office rent or family responsibilities be able to afford such?! Despite the saying that fees for the year 2019 Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association for the early bird for lawyers within the range of 6 years and 9 years at the bar is N22,500.00, it is still the misconception, with due respect, that such is not high! Despite having paid the Annual Practising Fee?! I beg to defer! Apart from this fee, at this rate notwithstanding, such lawyer will still pay for his flight ticket which is for instance, a minimum of N20,000.00 to and N20,000.00 fro (that is if booked earlier before the travelling date). Also, hotel lodging for a day is for instance, a minimum of N72,000.00 for a day ( based on my personal inquiry), totaling the sum of N494,500.00 (for when the conference lasts for at least, five to six days). This, in my humble view, is actually ridiculous! Even if someone pays the conference fees in charity for a lawyer, the lawyer still has to struggle out the balance of the total sum needed, else, it is fruitless, also knowing that such a week’s conference fees is enough to pay the rent and office rent of a lawyer! This will also mean that such conference is only meant for the rich and not for the common man in the society! This I humbly submit that the Nigerian Bar Association and the organisers have to really strategically plan having the lawyers and considering the struggling community at heart, else, we will be overlooking the clear reality. May I also humbly recommend that conference at the national level seems very cost for lawyers to attend, then, such conference should be only at the State’s level. This will be cheap and affordable for lawyers, in my humble view. Then, national meeting should be attended by Branches’ executives. These recommendations can be considered in a strategic plan on their workability. And if we have to shy away from these truth, it might mean that lawyers will have to await when the Annual General Conference will have to be scheduled to hold in his State of residence before he can attend!
Furthermore, parents and or guardian too have their roles to play within the struggling community. I humbly recommend that parents and or guardians should ensure that the early period of a lawyer’s call to bar should not be over-flogged with disturbances for donating money for family responsibilities. They should understand how the community has become to struggle greatly to achieve or make a living. Economically, the community is not favourable to young lawyers with no financial support. Families have to create avenue for financial support for a lawyer until he is able to make a standard of living. Also, I realize that the worst in-law to a lady is a husband-lawyer! Without money, he has no respect from his in-laws and his wife and is seen as ‘a nobody’, despite his being a professional! What is envisaged is for him to have a big car, big house, and other good looking appearances and financial sponsorship for the in-laws, etc., whereas, they themselves know that in real sense, it takes a while to acquire all of those by righteous means! Only God can save young lawyers and lawyers as a whole!
Finally, it is my humble submission that in creating enabling career opportunities for lawyers, the parents, guardians, the government, the National Assembly and the Nigerian Bar Association (at both the branches and the national level) have great roles to play and in doing so, it will go a long way in the prestige of the legal profession and the national development of Nigeria.