Chief Folake Solanke, the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria, was called to the Nigerian Bar, 54 years ago. Last Thursday, she chaired an event where former Secretary-General of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Dele Adesina launched a book, New Development in Law and Practice in Nigeria, to mark his 35 years post-call at the Bar, 25 years of establishment of his chambers and 10 years of his decoration as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Chief Solanke rendered a thought-provoking speech on how to build a virile Bar and Bench in Nigeria.
Let me start by congratulating the celebrant for this most propitious day of celebrations. I also congratulate Mercy – the celebrant’s charming wife – the family and members of his law chambers. I must also congratulate the one and only learned profession that we can still celebrate events of joy like today’s event despite the notoriety and infamy which now assail and threaten to overwhelm us. Today’s celebrations are testament to the fact that many of us are loyal to our oath to serve God, humanity and uphold the rule of law. And we shall overcome the present imbroglio. “Deo Volente,” despite our detractors. This statement is without prejudice to my personal and professional anguish about the present lamentable situation of our profession.
I am grateful to the celebrant and the entire Dele Adesina & Co for appointing me the Chairman of this propitious occasion. I appreciate the stupendous honour. I applaud the achievements of my learned friend of the Silk – Dele Adesina, SAN- for his three-dimensional celebrations to wit:
-35th year post-call at the Bar; 25 years of the establishment of his reputable Law-chambers; and 10th year of his elevation to the prestigious rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. These are superb professional achievements. Let us celebrate him. An annual Lecture is being inaugurated today with the title of: Building a Successful Legal Career/Practice.
I welcome the underlying concept of the well-formulated title which focuses on the celebrant’s determination to help and encourage young lawyers to persevere in order to succeed in the one and only learned profession. In my own personal experience of 54 years at the Bar, with 36 years as the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria, with all due respect to all other noble professions, the law is the best profession on earth.
The annual lecture will stimulate public and intellectual discourse.
Thus, it is admirable that the celebrant is very conscious of the need to engage in corporate social responsibility because no professional can succeed without the patronage of the members of the society. Now, as a consequence of my testimony, as Prosecution witness No.2, at the Old Bailey – the Central Criminal Court in London – in 1957, I was challenged to read law. Iwas then a resident teacher of Latin and Mathematics in a fee-paying public school, England. Thus, I am still very fond of the teaching profession. We need teachers and the other professions. However, I am extremely enamoured of the law.
I have studied the list of the erudite, learned leading lights here present – the participants in the lecture. The list is formidable and I am positive we are in for a scholarly treat. Today, there is also a book titled: New Developments in Law and Practice in Nigeria for presentation. The title is impactful and aligns with the celebrant’s focus on young lawyers. There can be no development in law without the participation of young lawyers. I have noted the names of the learned legal giants who have contributed papers to the book on a range of compelling topics. No doubt, the book will adorn a law library and other libraries. We are anxiously awaiting the unveiling of this “magnum opus.”
As we have the giants of the profession here today, I wish to address an extremely sensitive and professional matter “id est” pupillage. A few years ago, at the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Ibadan Conference in Ibadan, a question was posed for a discussion whether there should be a period of pupillage for new wigs. The response was a categorical “No”.
I was in pupillage with my late brother-in-law – the brilliant Hon. Justice M. A. Odesanya for one year in Lagos and the late iconic Chief F.R.A. Williams, SAN, for one year in Ibadan. They were fantastic advocates. I learnt a lot from them and aspired to be like them. It is my humble view that pupillage is imperative for a new wig for one or two years.
I opened my Alabukun Law Chambers in Ibadan – the first female law-office in Ibadan – in 1966. Young lawyers in Ibadan, and at the 2017 NBA Conference in Lagos, and in Abuja, have complained to me, some of them in tears, that they are not paid for their work while undergoing pupillage. I say this is wrong, for lawyers, traditionally, are not expected to render service without remuneration; It is a tenet of the profession. Lawyers are paid by their clients, so lawyers in pupillage should be paid.
New lawyers incure expenses during pupillage to wit: for rent, food, transportation, books, apparel “et cetera.” In defence of lawyers in pupillage, I declare that lawyers are not slaves, only slaves work for no pay or very poor pay because a slave is the legal property of the slaver. A lawyer is certainly not the property of a learned senior or any other person. When I was in pupillage, I was paid by those two fine gentlemen of the Bar.
Thus, I implore all senior members who utilise the services of lawyers in pupillage to pay them adequately. Lawyers are not like’ the African illegal immigrants who are currently being sold into slavery in Libya in this 21st Century. In Canada, pupillage is called Articleship and lawyers in articleship, I am told by a Nigerian currently in pupillage in Canada, are being paid. It is incomprehensible and astonishing that some lawyers in pupillage are not paid. “Heavens above!”
I enter a caveat. My statement should not create a revolt in law-chambers, but it is meant for a conversation for remedial action. So young lawyer in pupillage, I plead with you not to go to war with your learned seniors, but politely apply for remuneration for your services.