In this paper presented at the FAMA FIRM virtual conference on “Contemporary issues facing the welfare of young lawyers in Nigeria and possible solutions” by fiery Law Teacher, SYLVESTER UDEMEZUE, he strives to plot a roadmap for Nigeria’s young lawyers on how to surmount the myriad of challenges besetting them in the legal services industry.
NIGERIAN YOUNG LAWYERS, THEIR MANY CHALLENGES, AND THE WAY OUT OF THE DOLDRUMS
At the FAMA FIRM’s LAW WEBINAR where the problems and welfare of the Nigerian young lawyer took the Centre stage, I (as a one of the main speakers) tried to identify some of the problems facing the young lawyer in Nigeria, and I made efforts to also advance some recommendations on the way out of the doldrums, in the best interest of young lawyers and the law profession.
For the many challenges the young lawyer faces in Nigeria, I respectfully held the following people and organizations blameful/responsible (each to a certain degree):
1. The Young Lawyer himself/Herself— Lack of proper orientation on the things that really matter within and outside the profession; obsession with inane materialism; excessive greed; acute impatience; lack of proper commitment and self-preparation; low self-development efforts; poor reading culture; obsession with negative comparison; lack of objectiveness in decision-making during Bar elections which leads, sometimes, to enthronement of wrong leaders; failure or refusal to cooperate with, or support incumbent Bar leaderships at all levels; mentality of over-dependence on others (looking for apple instead of focusing on learning how to pluck the apples yourself); improper packaging (your packaging determines the level of treatment you get from others); improper focus on money instead of work which is what would eventually yield you greater dividends; excessive desperation; lack of humility; engagement in delinquent behaviors; distorted and disjointed attitude to life and value system, selfishness and egoism, etc.
2. The Society in which the young lawyer has found himself/herself — bad and corrupt governance, gullible and docile followership, degraded society, poor economy, social dislocation, low support infrastructure, etc.
3. Successive leadership of the Bar Association over the years — failure of NBA leaderships to work hard to stop/reduce incessant encroachment into the legal practice space by non-lawyers; failure to initiate necessary legal reforms that would ensure expansion of the employment base for legal practitioners in order to create more employment and make lawyers more relevant to society (most lawyers look for work only in law firms thereby creating more pressure and are subjected to undue exploitation, harassment, and poor treatment, etc: law firms would appreciate and pay lawyers more (to discourage them from leaving) if the firms see fewer lawyers to employ); NBA has not focused on the real needs of the young lawyer (trying to fix a minimum wage for privately-owned Law firms is mere pursuit of the impossible; come off it and focus on the realizable, more beneficial things); segregation and division within the various segments of the profession lead to acrimony and lack of proper focus; NBA and its members give very little support to legal education institutions in Nigeria; failure to secure a better deal for lawyers in the society, compared to members of other professions (medical profession has a better deal because their leadership had worked for it), NBA has not created proper avenues for robust engagement and deliberations on the challenges facing the young lawyer and the profession in general (except in few instances, the periods and sessions during NBA Annual Conferences are usually entirely dissipated/wasted on discussing matters that have little or NO relevance to the welfare and promotion of lawyers, the legal profession and the young lawyers in particular; we won’t know how to solve our problems if we don’t have proper avenues of identifying and and discussing them comprehensively); etc
4. Employers of (Law) Labour — sexual and other harassment by bosses due partly to desperation and improper conduct (dressing, etc) on the part of young lawyers, and also due to the randy nature of some employers; undue exploitation by employers; improper/inadequate remuneration and welfare packages for employees; unconducive work environment; lack of proper involvement, engagement, poor employer leadership examples, poor employee-motivation etc.
5. Our Learned Senior Colleagues — incessant intimidation and bullying of young lawyers which tend to put the young lawyers off, discourage them and sometimes frustrate them out of the profession; most of our seniors don’t lead by good example, most seniors don’t provide proper support and encouragement to juniors, selfishness by seniors, etc.
6. Educational Institutions—- starting from secondary schools and universities, we need to take education of our youth much more seriously; Council of Legal Education (CLE) should tighten the noose on Law Faculties to force them to re-double their efforts at training lawyers; Guidance and Counseling should be made a necessary part of the curriculum both at the secondary and university level, and indeed all levels, etc.
7. Regulatory Institutions within the legal profession— each regulator hardly lives up to its responsibilities and the expectations of lawyers generally , inefficiency and corruptions, nepotism, little or no partnership among core regulators, etc.
8. Individual Luck: Not everyone would be rich or well-to-do; if you try to be faster than your shadow, you may crash. Hard work is a condition precedent to success; but not everyone who works hard that must succeed. Accordingly, while you work hard to be the best, try and make allowance for some failure or ill-luck because you don’t know what the future holds in store for you. Hope and work for the best, but be prepared for the worst, sometimes; life might not be a bed of roses; challenges are a part of life. Our destinies aren’t the same. Learn how to approach failure and delays. Some were born great; some have greatness foisted upon them; but some must work very hard to achieve greatness. Yet, there are others who spent an entire lifetime working for greatness, but unsuccessfully; such is life. If you lose sight of this fact, you may miss your steps.
9. Parents and Guardians: not everyone is cut out to be a lawyer; some force their children or wards on the profession; let parents subject their children and wards for proper guidance and counseling before allowing them to study law. Don’t push your child to study law; let the decision be wholly voluntary, based on proper counseling. Some lawyers HAVE NO BUSINESS coming into the profession. They just can’t cope, however anyone tries to help them. They’re square pegs in round holes; Legal Missorts!
10. Poor Justice Administration System: corrupting, ineptitude and especially chronic delays in justice dispensation in Nigeria are a great source of frustration and discouragement for the young lawyers.
I proffered a number of solutions, which are contained in my paper (to be shared shortly). I then concluded: the solution to the young lawyer’s problems must begin (but not end) with the young lawyer himself/herself: an altogether new mode of thinking; improved reading culture; hard work; more commitment to the profession and work; patience; selflessness; radical reorientation; eschew materialism and negative comparative analysis; the dependence-mentality; focus all your energy on work, not money, and money will come; proper self-packaging (you don’t need much money to properly package/market yourself; but you need proper packaging to get the money you need, and to make it in the profession); develop the attitude of selfless service (how you serve others determines how far you can go in the profession); personal development; networking; flee from all forms of evil because KARMA and RETRIBUTION are REAL; stay away from money politics during bar elections so you can get the right leadership,; support every incumbent NBA leadership (even if your candidate during elections lost/loses the election (it a civic responsibility), etc.
As I have said, I will make my paper available for public consumption and to continue the discussion.
Sylvester Udemezue (udems)
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