MATTERS OF THE BAR 2 - AGE AT THE BAR- By S.O.K Shillings, Esq. (The Pen Master)


How old a lawyer is at the  Bar ordinarily should not present a problem. But it is the only question of age that presents such problem requiring judicial interpretation and intervention.

In our profession, when you are called to the Bar in November 2019, you will pay your practice fee to the Supreme Court immediately. You will then pay subsequent annual fees between January and March 31st.

The first payment represents the first year of payment and practice. So, if you pay the next fee tomorrow, you are 2 years at the Bar even though you are only 3 months entitled to practise and in your first year session.

But when it is time to seek benefits, like election or confirment, the reckoning changes. You revert to the calendar year.

So many have vied for positions in NBA and were disqualified after crisscrossing cities in national elections. Some have applied for benefits only to not qualify after all having miscalculated.

A most bizarre scenario is with the transition time and the danger of miscalculation. If you pay for 9 years when you are supposed to pay 10, God help you if you know at the appropriate time and you could still make it up. It could cost you your practice for a year and the conferment of the silk even in later years after. And permanently!

I wonder aloud why we need this confusion in such a simple matter of age and the dichotomy of age of payment and age of benefit.

I think that if you are called on the ides of February, the family of the Bar should bear the little loss of your using your valentine budget to pay your fee in a transition year on the 14th of February to avoid adding a year the next day. The first payment need not be counted as a year and the confusion is banished forever.

The Supreme Court has delivered a ruling affirming the pristine position. But I know that it was NBA and not SC that reviewed the fees 7 years ago (a corollary issue).

So, it is the NBA that should regulate the age-at-the-Bar issue. The 2019 constitution came after the Supreme Court ruling but we did not address our minds to a proper definition of the ages specified for elections.

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