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NBA president, Alegeh, tasks lawyers on professionalism


Mr. Augustine Alegeh

Mr. Augustine Alegeh

President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN), has charged lawyers on professionalism and urged them to boost their practice by exploring emerging areas of the law that have been ignored.

According to him, electricity law, which he said could be a goldmine, entertainment law and sports law are areas lawyers can develop skills in and make money from.

To him, every lawyer must not practise oil and gas law. “It is important that we look at other areas we can key into”, he said.
Alegeh, who spoke at the second career development seminar of the National Association of Catholic Lawyers (Lagos Archdiocese), with the theme: “Retooling your practice”, urged lawyers to make sufficient contacts to follow through in building their client base.

Also speaking at the event, a justice of the Court of Appeal, Chinwe Iyizoba, believes lawyers can succeed through hard work.
According to her, some lawyers who appear before the Appeal Court do not master their cases to the extent that some do not know the date a notice of appeal was filed.

Her words: “How could a full-fledged lawyer come to the Court of Appeal to argue a case and he does not have at the tips of his fingers things he needs to do about that particular case? This is what has happened in this age when there has been some de-emphasis on advocacy – you bring your file, mention the date you filed and you adopt.

“You find that some lawyers are no longer reading. Sometimes, they pick up the files without bothering to go through it. Can such a lawyer make any progress? It’s difficult.

“On the question of advocacy, it is true lawyers can come to court and adopt their brief. But that doesn’t prevent you as a good lawyer from studying the brief, knowing it inside out, and after you have adopted your brief, you talk to us in a few minutes, telling us what the case is all about.

“Do you know that occasionally when counsel is given that opportunity, they pick up the brief and start reading it, which means he’s not familiar with the facts of the case. He doesn’t know what the case is all about.

Besides, a former Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA) President, Mrs. Boma Ozobia, who gave the keynote speech, said lawyers could only give what they have.She said it was unfortunate that some lawyers earn less than what some drivers are paid.

According to her, increasing number of lawyers should not be a problem compared to Nigeria’s population. “Yet, so many of our colleagues are struggling to make a decent living,” she said.

On how lawyers can retool their practice, she said it involves having a business plan. Law firms, she said, should be run as businesses, and must function even if the principal is not there. Lawyers must also adopt business development strategies, plan for succession, and design exit strategies.

“The most important tool is you: You have got to know your onion,” she said, urging lawyers to set targets and work towards achieving them, even if they work for others.
“A lawyer must also consider who his target clients are, which determines where he sets up shop. “You have to understand that you sell your services,” she added.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Anthonia Akinlawon, urged lawyers to think outside the box and realise that every facet of life has a legal frame-work governing it, which can be harnessed. “You must understand strategic thinking,” she said.

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