By Innocent Anaba
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Arthur Obi Okafor, has called for deliberate policy framework to improve the welfare of young lawyers in the country and equip them to compete favourably in a globalised market.
In his address at the maiden edition of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Young Lawyers Forum, Calabar branch, Cross River State, Obi Okafor stated that every effort to improve and develop the legal profession in Nigeria must go together with efforts aimed at increasing opportunities for young lawyers.
He said: “In recent times, the main problem of young lawyers in Nigeria has been locating opportunities for employment. This in itself is not the only problem, but from time to time, we need to pause and examine the efforts, means and methods by which young lawyers can engage in expanding the frontiers of legal practice, appraise the successes, challenges, and failures and adapt positively especially in line with the professional circumstances and realities in Nigeria and the world today.”
He identified the challenges facing the young lawyer playing across borders to include demands for specialisation.
“There is increased demand for specializations in areas of practice in the global legal service sector that requires multidisciplinary skills. For instance, a decent knowledge of accounting and finance in order to have a basic understanding of corporate governance issues etc is essential. Law is increasingly becoming multidisciplinary in nature and a lawyer is now required to understand many socio-political issues, and happenings in other areas such as oil and gas, capital market, etc.”
This is the effect of globalization on legal practice. The reality is therefore, that a lawyer should continuously pursue skills in related fields to remain relevant and employable in today’s rather overpopulated legal landscape.”
On the impact of Information and Communication Technology, ICT on the young lawyer, he said: “Knowledge and proficiency in ICT is a mandatory requirement in the 21st century legal marketplace. Clients often communicate through ICT systems and lawyers must be in a position to access and have proficiency in utilization of ICT facilities. These include video conferencing, advanced document formats for sensitive documents etc. A Nigerian lawyer and indeed any lawyer anywhere in the world must therefore, be abreast of latest developments in ICT as it is a requirement for effective use of ICT systems and devices.”
He stated that the rules of professional conduct also affect the performance of the young lawyer, as “Every lawyer no matter how brilliant and smart must at all times bear in mind the strict rules of professional conduct for Nigerian lawyers and lawyers everywhere. A high regard for ethical standards and rules of professional conduct is an absolute necessity for success in the legal profession.
“The legal profession places a high premium on integrity, honesty, decency, dedication and discipline all over the world. A successful lawyer must always represent the high moral values and discipline which distinguishes lawyers in the society. A lawyer should act within the prescriptions of the Rules of Professional Conduct. It can never be over-emphasized that without integrity, no lawyer can succeed in the long run. Practicing across borders may throw-up ethical issues. All lawyers should be careful not to breach rules of professional conduct in discharging legal duties,” he added.