The State Governor and PDP vice presidential candidate, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has challenged legal practitioners to specialize in specific emerging new areas of law to be relevant in an information technology-driven era. 

Governor Okowa gave the charge at the ongoing Nigerian Bar Association Section on Legal Practice Conference in Asaba, capital of Delta State.

Okowa who declared the conference open in a keynote address advocated for a paradigm shift from the conservative practice of criminal, land, or family law, but explore emerging areas of expertise such as international trade, blockchain, artificial intelligence, cyber security, among others.

Expressing concern over many lawyers focusing on traditional areas of law, he stated that the issue was not that there were too many lawyers, but too many lawyers doing the same thing.

"But there is an increasing need for legal advice in niche areas. These include international trade law, the AfCFTA, and the exponential increase in cross-border trade. Fintech - the merger of finance and technology - is another area requiring expert knowledge while its sister specialism, Regtech - the marriage of regulation and technology - has emerged to address regulatory challenges thrown up by the new technologies being used in the financial sector," the Governor stated.

He lauded the State Chief Judge, Honourable Justice Tessy Diai for her efforts in commencing virtual court sessions in the state judiciary, stressing that the courts and the legal profession must continue to adapt to cope with rapid changes.

Harping on the speedy dispensation of justice, the Governor disclosed that his administration through the Ministry of Justice has taken a bold and pioneering reform in the criminal justice sector, including using technology and active case management to minimize trial delays and decongest custodial centres. 

He emphasized the imperative of changing of mindset of judges, lawyers, and administrative staff using information technology, stressing that it was not only about building the hardware and installing the software. 

"It is vital for judges and lawyers to appreciate how information technology can assist them in their work and that the technology is now user-friendly," he explained.

The State Chief Judge, Justice Tessy Diai in her opening remarks, stated that the theme of this year's Nigerian Bar Association - Section on Legal Practice Conference, "Legal Practice in Nigeria: Our reality, Our Future" was very apt in the light of critical issues and challenges bordering on democracy, good governance, independence and financial autonomy of the Judiciary, rule of law and legal practice in general.

Justice Diai expressed hope that the conference would focus on the state of legal practice today, anomalies experienced, and the role of legal practitioners, to open up new vistas on how to tackle the challenges relating to legal practice.

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