HOW YOUNG LAWYERS CAN SURVIVE AND THRIVE, BY UDEMEZUE

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.
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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.

Respectfully,
Sylvester Udemezue (udems)

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YLF CHAIR, TOP UK ATTORNEY, UDEMEZUE TACKLE YOUNG LAWYERS’ WELFARE TOMORROW

Vocal Nigerian Law School Senior Lecturer, Mr. Sylvester Udemezue will tomorrow square up with a leading United Kingdom attorney, Prof. Suzanne Rab and President of the Nigerian Bar Association Young Lawyers Forum (NBA-YLF) Council, Mr. Tobi Adebowale to discuss the vexed issue of welfare of young lawyers.

The event is a virtual conference hosted by top Kaduna based law firm, Fama Firm and titled “Contemporary issues facing the welfare of young lawyers in Nigeria and possible solutions.” The two-hour roundtable which promises to be highly engaging will kick off at 1:30 pm.

The other panelists include Mr. Idris Mohammed, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK) and Managing Partner of FAMA FIRM as well as Adeline Owusua Asante, a Ghanaian attorney with Accra based Integrated Legal Consultants. The webinar will be moderated by Zainab Mohammad Bello, Pro-bono Coordinator at FAMA FIRM.

Participants are required to register for the webinar at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0L6m2ioQTaycWsqG4dLn-w or www.famafirm.com/webinar.

Rab has the uncommon distinction of having been admitted to the bar of England and Wales both as a barrister and solicitor. She is also admitted as a solicitor in Ireland. She has wide experience of EU law and competition law matters combining cartel regulation, commercial practices, IP exploitation, merger control, public procurement and State aid. 

Rab’s practice has a particular focus on the interface between competition law and economic regulation. She advises governments, regulators and businesses across the regulated sectors including in the communications, energy, financial services, healthcare/ pharmaceuticals, TMT and water sectors. She has significant experience of advising on the development, implementation and application of new competition laws and regulatory regimes in line with international best practices, including in emerging markets.

In private practice as a solicitor for 15 years prior to joining the bar, she has held positions at magic circle and leading international antitrust practices. Most recently she was an antitrust partner with a leading US practice. She has also held the role of director at PricewaterhouseCoopers working within its strategy, economics and forensics teams.

A respected author, Rab is a Consulting Editorial Board member for LexisNexis Competition; Visiting Professor, Imperial College Business School, Intellectual Property and Antitrust; Member, Advisory Board of the Oxford Regulatory Policy Institute (RPI), and a Member of Editorial Board of Competition Law Insight Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

She has been described by Who’s Who Legal UK Bar as “among the best” in the energy field according to sources who commend her “tenacity, technical excellence and enthusiasm”. The Legal 500/Chambers & Partners describes her as “Recommended for her experience acting for governments, regulators and businesses on EU regulation,” adding that “Solicitors praise her for her superior client service .…” On its part, Who’s Who Legal UK Bar: Competition describes the leading attorney as having “superb knowledge of the law”, “creative approach to problem solving” and a “hard-working nature.”

Mohammed has extensive interest in Telecommunication law and Corporate and Commercial Law, having pursued both interests at post-graduate level. He also has extensive experience in Arbitration. He is reputed as an accomplished litigator and appellate court lawyer, and has written several briefs at the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. His experience cuts across Telecommunications Law, Arbitration, Litigation & Appellate Practice.

He has consulted for such A-List technology companies like Swap Technologies & Telecomms Plc, American Towers Corporation Nigeria Ltd, Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Limited (Etisalat), Huawei Technologies Nigeria Limited, MainOne Cable Company Ltd, Sparkwest Industries, Starcomms Plc and Helios Towers Nigeria.

Mohammed successfully represented a Nigerian tower company before an adhoc arbitral panel in a claim of $65 Million Dollars against a major telecommunications company, and is currently representing clients in a N1.2 Billion damages claim against a multinational company and a N650 million contract claim against a state government.

His practice areas include Telecommunications Law, Arbitration, Litigation And Appellate Practice, And Corporate/Commercial Law.

FAMA FIRM is reputed as “one of the leading commercial law firms in Northern Nigeria.” The firm provides legal services in diverse areas, and is “highly dynamic, service oriented, principally focused on fulfilling client’s need.”

Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Join us on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/City-Lawyer-Magazine-434937936684320 and on TWITTER at https://twitter.com/CityLawyerMag All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.

VIRTUAL COURTS SUIT: ‘WHY S/W ATTORNEYS-GENERAL MUST RETRACE STEPS,’ BY UDEMEZUE

The controversy over plans by Attorneys-General of Nigeria’s South West Zone to seek a constitutional interpretation of virtual court hearings has refused to abate.

CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report noted that there was a move by the six South West attorneys-general to approach the Supreme Court for an interpretation of section 36(3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution as it relates to virtual court hearings. The Attorneys-General have also come under fire from several jurists including a federal judge for the move.

In this article, Nigerian Law School teacher, Mr. Sylvester Udemezue advises the State chief law officers on how to rework their strategy to have a fighting chance of success with the initiative.

THE BACKGROUND
I recently read of plans by Attorneys-General (AG`s) of Nigeria’s South West Zone to approach the Supreme Court for a judicial interpretation of section 36(3) and (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as it relates to virtual court hearing. The report which came under the headline, “Virtual Hearing: South West AG`s Storm Supreme Court Tomorrow” and published by the City Lawyer stated, in part, as follows:

‘Attorneys-General of Nigeria’s South West Zone have resolved to seek a constitutional interpretation of virtual court hearings as set out in the National Judicial Council (NJC) Guidelines and Sundry Practice Directions issued by heads of courts, CITY LAWYER can exclusively report. Speaking today at an Attorneys-General Colloquium on “Remote hearing and e-filing in Nigeria: A broader perspective and practical, foolproof implementation,” Ekiti State Attorney-General & Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Olawale Fapohunda said the Attorneys-General of Lagos, Ondo and Oyo States would head to the Supreme Court tomorrow to test the constitutionality of remote hearings. His words: “Since the National Judicial Council issued its Guidelines for court sittings in this COVID-19 period, we have had a national conversation particularly among justice sector stakeholders on the constitutionality or otherwise of remote court hearings.” Continuing, the leading justice reform advocate said: “Let me however quickly use this opportunity to inform participants that following a resolution of the South West Attorneys-General, the Attorneys-General of Lagos, Ondo and Oyo States have decided to approach the Supreme Court to seek a constitutional interpretation of Section 36(3) & (4) of the 1999 Constitution, particularly as it relates to remote court hearings. We will be filing the necessary papers in the Supreme Court tomorrow. Fapohunda, who was the Host of the webinar organized by Ekiti State Ministry of Justice and LawPavilion, added that “We are convinced that a definite pronouncement by the Supreme Court is necessary in order to put the matter at rest once and for all.’

Lawyers have been speaking on the development, with some giving kudos while some others give their knocks. (see http://citylawyermag.com/2020/06/05/virtual-courts-judge-sans-knock-s-w-attorneys-general-over-supreme-court-suit/). On his part, one respected senior lawyer has suggested that if the National Assembly could have powers to amend the Constitution over the virtual hearing (see “Senate introduces bill to Legalize virtual court proceedings” published on https://www.von.gov.ng/), the planned suit by the Southwest AG`s might not be out of place, as, according to him, it would assist to quickly resolve the matter, to determine whether or not there is any need for constitution amendment in that regard.

MY COMMENT
In my humble opinion, the power of the legislature (in this case, the Nigerian National Assembly) to make laws or to amend any law or the Constitution is clearly different, and as such is distinguishable, from the legal standing (locus standi) of the Attorneys-General to institute an action at the Supreme Court for this purpose. The National Assembly is empowered by section 4(2) of the Constitution to make laws for the order and good governance of Nigeria or any part of it. This power may be exercised any time without the need to wait for any live dispute, real controversy or incident to arise.

On the other hand, it is trite that a Court of Law does not sit over a hypothetical matter, as this amounts to a mere academic exercise. As already settled by the same Supreme Court, for a court’s jurisdiction to hear and determine a case brought before it, can get validly activated, the claimant or applicant must establish that there is a cause of action, and that he (the claimant) has the legal standing to institute the action, although in certain public interest and human right cases, existence of locus standi could be dispensed with.

What cannot be dispensed with, however, is prior existence of a cause of action, and this is because a suit is filed in court for purposes or remedying an wrong allegedly done to the claimant. The existence of a valid action presupposes that (1) a legal right exists which (2) had been violated (3) leading to some injury on a person or thing (4) which is legally remediable. In a long line of cases, including OSHOBA v. AMUDA, (2). MOBIL v. LASEOA, (3) CHEVRON v. LONESTAR, (4). BELLO v. AG, OYO), the Supreme Court has recognized the indispensability of existence of a cause of action (a real controversy) to the activation of the court’s jurisdiction.

In the instance case, based on the aforesaid, if the dream of these AG`s finally becomes a reality, the question that would be thrown up is as regards existence or otherwise of any live dispute or real controversy upon which the Hon AG’s could be said to have filed such a suit before the Supreme Court? I think the AG`s might have an enormous task convincing the Supreme Court that a cause of action actually exists. But there may be an alternative course, where the Supreme Court option fails; the AG’s could persuade or encourage one of the parties to the recently-conducted virtual court hearings in the High Court of Lagos State, to proceed on appeal to challenge the validity of one of the virtual proceedings. Because of the crucial nature of the subject matter, the head of the Court of Appeal would ensure that the case is afforded an accelerated hearing so that whoever loses is further encouraged to move over to the Supreme Court for a final determination. As good as it looks, this approach comes with its own challenges because, under such circumstances, question pertaining to breach of that aspect of Legal Professional Ethics relating to “Instigation of Controversy” might arise. Rule 47 (1) of the RPC expressly admonishes the Legal Practitioner to refrain from fermenting strife or instigating controversy. The Hon AG’s advising a person/party, save their close relations, to institute a law suit or to file an appeal in court, might be viewed as a violation of this Rule.

MY ADVICE
Why not we get the National Assembly to speedily amend the Constitution and thus clear all doubts. During the virtual hearing webinar organized by Law & Society Forum (LaSF) on 29 May, 2020, at which I was a Speaker, I had drawn our attention to the admonition of the Supreme Court in the case of Doherty v Doherty (1968), that use of Writ of Summons should be resorted where there is “uncertainty as to what mode of commencement of action should be used.” Why can’t we, by way of analogy, apply that counsel here. Nigerian lawyers and jurists are evenly divided as to the constitutionality or otherwise of conducting virtual court proceedings in Nigeria without a prior constitution amendment or legal reform, which means that we’ve have arrived a point of uncertainty in regard to the matter. I accordingly respectfully advise us to please err on the side of caution by adopting the approach that would save us much stress, in the long run, especially in view of the ripple effects of the recent decision of the Supreme Court in UDEOGU V FRN (Orji KALU Case) (see https://www.tvcnews.tv/scourt-nullifies-orji-kalus-conviction-orders-fresh-trial/) wherein section 396(7) Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 was struck down on grounds of its inconsistency with provisions of the Constitution.

Although the procedure for Constitution amendment in Nigeria is not a “moi-moi” matter (not easy; is cumbersome), if these AG’s cooperate with the National Assembly on the matter, it would take less than the next two months to get the Constitution amended to expressly authorize or legalize virtual hearing and thus leave no one in doubt while saving us all future embarrassing controversy. The time and resources the AG’s propose to expend at the Supreme Court over a mere academic exercise that is likely going to be thrown out on grounds of absence of a cause of action or locus standi or both, should be channeled towards rendering necessary cooperation to the National Assembly to do the needful within the shortest possible time. American operatic soprano, Beverly Sills, (1929-2007) once said, “there are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.”

Respectfully,
SYLVESTER UDEMEZUE (udems)

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2018 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.