‘Legal Profession Regulation Bill will boost standard’
Professor Fabian Ajogwu (SAN) has said that the pending Legal Profession Regulation Bill, when enacted, would give the law profession a ‘fresh start’ and better standard it deserves.He was speaking on ‘Future Of The Legal Profession and The Regulation Of Legal Practitioners’ at the 59th Annual General Conference (AGC) of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Lagos.
The senior advocate believes that the bill will equip Nigerian lawyers to handle the diverse and competing roles required of a 21st Century lawyer in the light of global occurrences and technological advancements, while still maintaining the foundational principles of the legal profession.
According to him, there are growing concerns about falling standards in the legal profession, the quality of legal education, deteriorating standards of professional ethics and weak regulatory regimes for the legal profession, as well as the threats that technology and globalisation have brought in the industry.
“These concerns have been traced to failures in the regulation of our profession. As legal practitioners in this age, we belong to a time of fluidity, where traditional walls are collapsing and the world is being shaped as a global village. There exists free trade agreements and commerce on a large scale.
“Technology has also continued to develop with the advent of disruptions such as block chain technology. Legal practitioners are now required to play ‘catch up’ with these advancements.”He, however, noted that lawyers of the future would consist legal specialists and legal information engineers of the information society.
“Legal practice and the administration of justice will no longer be dominated by print and paper in tomorrow’s legal paradigm. Instead, legal systems of the information society will evolve rapidly under the powerful influence of ICT,” he said.Speaking on the NBA Legal Profession Regulation Review Committee (NBA LPRRC), Chief Anthony Idigbe (SAN) said changes would require significant political commitment, partly to meet the expected criticism from some lawyers because reform will need primary legislation, which requires scarce parliamentary time.
He added, “The HAGF, Body of Benchers, Bar Council, Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, The Supreme Court, The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, Council of Legal Education, Nigeria Law School and Nigerian Bar Association have no central organisation and are not subject to any central control.
“There are no licensing and supervision of practitioners and law firms. No practice licence, no inspection, no insurance, no mandatory continuing professional development, no annual report, and the current NBA CPD programme has no statutory backing,” he said.He therefore noted that the bill introduced licensing of law firms and prohibition of local legal practice by foreign law firms. Idigbe added: “The bill seeks to introduce the system of pupilage to enhance the development of legal ethics and professionalism in young lawyers, as well as seeks to make provision for licensing and accreditation of legal service providers such as para-legal.”
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