MATTERS OF THE BAR 5 - RAISON DETRE (1) - By S. O. K Shillings, Esq. (The Pen Master)


The NBA, like other professional bodies, has both internal (for members) and external (societal) roles.

It has responsibility in the admission of entrants into and excommunication of bad eggs and charlatans from the profession. That extends to the determination of the right of members to practice vide license issued upon payment of practicing fees.

It plays vital role in "continuing' education of lawyers and has powers to determine compliance. It also regulates the compliance of members to the Rules of Conduct and has powers to sanction therefor.

It speaks for lawyers as mouthpiece and relates with government and other stakeholders in the justice system to advance the cause of its members.

The most important responsibility of the NBA is the welfare of the job and its members. Spelt out: the NBA has the duty of protecting and expanding the frontiers of law practice, creating the best environment for litigation and commercial practices and making life better for lawyers.

A lot has been done by successive regimes but there are still miles to cover while some achievements of yore are lost.

Lawyers breathed a sigh of relief when the much vaunted stamp and seal came to fruition. It is a great development. The aesthetic value alone! But the administration needs some more tinkering with.  There are fake stamps and lawyers still apply receipts 10 months after payment thus avoiding and abusing it. The issue of expiration date needs to be resolved.

There is need for vigilance by branches and an understanding  with the Bench to achieve desired result. It is difficult to understand why the register of lawyers has still not been compiled and made available to branches.

In those days, the law practice was well protected so much that preparation of title and other legal documents are exclusive preserves of lawyers. Now, non-lawyers and lawyers in paid employment are competing for the scarce briefs. That is worsened by the job-restricting aspects of the RPC (See MoB 4).

Worst of all, police (wo)men prosecute cases in court because there is no money to employ lawyers.

The sections on continuing education are doing very well but will achieve better participation if their timetables are released by the beginning of the legal year for lawyers to plan theirs.

Branches are now realising the importance of including lectures in their monthly meetings and that should be encouraged with CLE points incentive when the points start to count; hopefully!

Litigation is not healthy. The courts are not in good condition. They are inadequate as the judges are overworked and cases suffer undue adjournments that discourage litigants and lawyers too. Congestion in the appellate courts discourage interlocutory appeals.

How do we ration that there is substantial shortage of justices of the Supreme Court against constitutional provision.

The Courts of Appeal and Federal High Courts are built for States that could afford counterpart funding of inchoate infrastructure. Judges are appointed according to an incomprehensible formula designed by NJC which leaves Lagos, for instance, in perpetual shortage.

The Bar has failed woefully in intervention in this core area of responsibility and needs to buckle up to sustain interest, enhance fulfilment and preserve dignity.

What do lawyers in public service, civil and military, get in return for the fees paid into the purse of NBA? There appears to be no interest in their emoluments and conditions of service. They should be encouraged to have sub-association(s) through which the profession and their interests could be articulated and pursued.

The implementation of the life insurance scheme is a great leap. Effort should be intensified on arrangement with hmos for health scheme.

Cooperative schemes are difficult for largely non-salaried and inconsistent income groups. Nonetheless, the financial muscle of the national body and some branches should sustain a cooperative while thrift and bulk purchase arrangements should be encouraged in smaller branches.

It is noteworthy that the lawyer is an elite and many are still in the economic mix-zone. It is proper to make effort to ensure that the lawyer borrows from his colleagues before approaching the neighbour.

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