“We need to raise the standard of legal education in Nigeria. The standard is too poor and too weak, and we see it in the quality of lawyers that come to our chambers”.
The above were the words of the former chair of the NBA while describing the pitiable state of legal education in Nigeria which is clearly on its death throes. It is saddening that the framework for legal education in the country which has served the country for over five decades appears to be gasping for its last breath. The challenges bedeviling legal education in Nigeria, resulting in the low quality we now have, are multifarious. However, these challenges are not without practical solutions. Thus, against the foregoing backdrop, this paper examines the current day reality of the state of legal education in Nigeria; prospects, challenges and productive way forward for legal education in the country.
Disu, Damilare, Current Day Realities of Legal Education in Nigeria: Challenges, Prospects and Productive Way Forward (February 9, 2020).
Available from the SSRN
The immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association, A. B Mahmoud, SAN, has said the Body of Benchers was ill-equipped to regulate the affairs of the legal profession. The body, which comprises of lawyers and judges is put in place to regulate the education of aspirants to the bar and consequently admits lawyers who successfully pass their bar final exams into the Nigeria bar. Mahmoud added that legal education regulation was dysfunctional. According to him: “The Council of Legal Education (CLE) is not a functioning body. It’s a very dysfunctional body”. He, however, regretted that the situation had led to the churning out of half-baked lawyers, resulting in loss of confidence in the legal profession. He faulted the Body of Benchers, which admits lawyers to the Bar, over its operational methods. The NBA president spoke at a session on “NBA reforms agenda” during the association’s Annual General Conference in Abuja.
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Back in September 2017 we reported on the Nigerian Bar Association’s legal and regulatory reform objectives. Since then a number of initiatives have been undertaken. The NBA President, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud, recently attended a meeting with the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) and presented them with a number of documents for review:
- An executive summary of the Nigerian Bar Association’s reform initiatives, which explains the context for NBA reforms, provides an overview of the current state of the Nigerian Legal Profession, and elaborates on the NBA Reform Strategy. The Reform Strategy focuses on the promotion of reforms in four crucial areas: the regulation of the legal profession, representation of NBA members, re-engineering of the NBA’s administrative structure, and in public interest interventions by the Nigerian Bar.
- A review of the NBA’s Corporate Governance and Financial Control Processes undertaken by KPMG Advisory Services.
- A Report and draft Legal Profession Regulation Bill 2017 produced by the NBA Legal Profession Regulatory Review Committee (LPRRC)
The presentation was well received by BOSAN members, who endorsed the Review of the Corporate Governance and Financial Control Processes of the Nigerian Bar Association, and urged the President to ensure that the recommendations proposed by KPMG in its report were implemented before the completion of the tenure of the current NBA administration. The Body also set up a Committee, which is mandated to review the draft Legal Profession Regulation Bill and forward its recommendations on the Bill to the NBA for its harmonisation into the final draft Bill.
We are delighted that the Nigerian Bar Association has expressed interest in the ICLR network and will be sending representation to the Singapore conference. Although the NBA is only responsible for part of the system of regulating lawyers at present, it has taken a leadership role in promoting the adoption of a major overhaul of the entire system, the details of which will be available shortly. The NBA’s regulatory reform committee has been driven in its work by the desire to raise standards in the profession. It is proposing to do so by clarifying the roles and responsibilities of regulatory structures, streamlining them as necessary, providing greater separation of regulatory and representational interests, promoting the involvement of lay interests and update the ethical framework for today’s Nigerian lawyer. President AB Mahmoud’s address sets out the high level vision that underlies this initiative
The following is an extract from the welcome address by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Abubakar Balarabe Mahmoud (SAN), at the opening ceremony of the annual general conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Lagos, 20 August 2017. We are grateful to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for allowing us to publish this extract which highlights the recent work undertaken by the NBA to review the legal and regulatory framework which governs Nigeria’s legal profession.
“Your Excellency, my lords, distinguished colleagues, the legal profession in Nigeria cannot be a champion of institution building or transformation, unless and until it reinvents itself. Indeed many will argue that the legal profession and more broadly the legal order must be the first candidate for reforms. As a friend recently euphemistically said to me, the legal order, or more directly the judicial system, in any country is like the operating system on a device. Once it is corrupted or it breaks down, no other application will operate successfully and the device may ultimately shut down.
It is in recognition of this that we have embarked on a number of initiatives. One of such major initiative was to begin a process of complete review of the legal and regulatory framework for the Nigeria Legal Profession. In December 2016, I inaugurated a high powered panel under the leadership of Chief Anthony Idigbe SAN, a very seasoned and highly accomplished lawyer supported by 21 equally brilliant lawyers and academics supported by some of our brightest young lawyers to undertake a holistic review of the regulatory objectives and regulatory architecture of the Nigerian Legal Profession. The panel was to consider what needs to be done to modernise the legal profession and prepare it to service a modern growing economy. I am happy to report that the committee has completed its assignment and submitted a report which we have currently exposed and are taking feedback from our members and other stakeholders. This report contains far reaching recommendations that aim to propel the Nigerian legal profession into a completely new era. It is accompanied with a complete draft new Bill that deals with legal education, the regulation of law firms, professional discipline, the role of the Body of Benchers. It also seeks to introduce paid pupillage as a prerequisite for entry into the profession. The overall objective is to raise the entry requirements into the profession, raise the quality and standards of the bar, to provide for more rigorous regulation of law firms, instil a more effective disciplinary process and provide for effective and well supervised continuing professional development. I want to emphasise that the report is still work in progress and it will ultimately be a proposal from the NBA for which we seek stakeholder buy-in.”
In an international benchmarking exercise, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in England and Wales finds that almost 80% of the jurisdictions surveyed have a common assessment as part of lawyer qualification.
Press release on SRA website
Report on SRA website