The Nigerian Lawyer today is faced with opportunities like never before. The digital revolution through the internet has impacted various kinds of businesses, and law is not an exception. Due to the rapid development and advancement of technology, expansion of IT solutions and diversification in the market system in Nigeria, lawyers are however presented with a unique opportunity to provide essential service delivery models in expanding areas of practice in order to build wealth both for the lawyer and the client.
According to Professor S. A. Tella of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun state, Nigeria in his Paper Moving Nigeria from Recession to Prosperity: The Trajectory of the Nigerian Laws –
“The role of law in promoting economic development cannot be overlooked as most of our lives and interactions with others are regulated by law. A sound economy invariably leads to growth and is the best way to combat endemic poverty in a developing country such as Nigeria. To ensure a sound economy, the legal institutions and regime must be sound, providing a platform for entrepreneurs and businesses to stand out which would consequently lead to the creation of jobs and alleviation of poverty”.
For instance, the Nigerian creative space has grown exponentially over the last decade, especially in the areas of Music, Film and Information Technology. According to PwC, in 2018, Nigeria’s entertainment and media industry revenue witnessed a 25.5 per cent growth amounting to $3.8 billion with $605 million of the estimated $764 million rise said to be attributable to internet access. Nollywood, is currently the third largest in the world after Hollywood and Bollywood, and it is anticipated by 2022 to have revenue reaching US$9.9 billion. The Nigerian music sector experienced a huge boom and is also currently ranked as the biggest music industry in Africa[i].
Secondly, the African Continental Area Free Trade Agreement would be the largest trade agreement in history and would remove barriers to trade, thereby allowing a flow of goods and services across African borders. Invariably, there are new job opportunities created for Nigerian legal practitioners in the ECOWAS regions by virtue of the ACFTA. Also, trade between Africa and the UK is growing, according to figures in 2016, Africa’s exports to the UK stood at US$16.89 billion, registering a marginal 1.96% increase from the previous year’s total of US$16.57 billion[ii]. Business and trade are now conducted on a global scale and there is an increasing demand for legal services[iii].
It is no news that the traditional areas of practice are shrinking and many lawyers are concerned about the high rate of multi-disciplinary firms encroaching into the legal space to offer services that used to be the exclusive purview of lawyers. I believe while we look to address these issues, we must simultaneously expand the current frontiers of practice. Many law firms are currently venturing into these new practice areas for instance, we have law firms who specialize in Entertainment Law, Fintech and other forms Alternative Dispute Resolution. However, we must actively encourage more practitioners to go farther in exploring these areas.
Lawyers must begin to offer critical business support and solutions to stakeholders and parties in the areas listed above, which must also include galvanizing government support and protection for creatives. There is a need to reposition the creative industry in Nigeria and Lawyers have a huge role to play in exposing our creative industry to potential markets while helping to structure deals that benefits the Nigerian creatives.
To achieve this, we must pay attention to the following:
Firstly, we must insist on continuous professional development for our legal practitioners. It is now a glaring reality that the education of a lawyer should not be left only to the Nigerian Law School. Mentorship is also key in grooming our younger lawyers to achieve high success in these key areas.
Secondly, the efficacy of the justice administration is a paramount consideration for local and international investors. Therefore, our justice administration system must be reformed to ensure speedy delivery process. Thirdly, the trust and confidence that the people have in the judicial system have a direct impact on obedience to the orders and judgement of the courts, there’s need to build confidence of the people in the judicial system.
Lastly and most importantly, the Bar and the Bench must remain partners in ensuring productive collaboration to facilitate the attainment of due process, rule of law and smooth justice system.
I must conclude by re-emphasizing that Nigerian lawyers must begin to position strategically in all the key sectors mentioned above, if we must expand our frontiers and secure the future of our profession.
Dele Adesina SAN, FCIArb.
[i] Jayne Augoye. (2018). Review of the Nigerian entertainment industry in 2018. Available: https://www.premiumtimesng.com/entertainment/naija-fashion/303303-review-of-the-nigerian-entertainment-industry-in-2018.html. Last accessed 8th June, 2020 .
[ii] Brian Mureverwi. (2017). UK-Africa trading relationship. Available: https://www.tralac.org/resources/our-resources/11896-united-kingdom-africa-trading-relationship.html#:~:text=In%202016%2C%20Africa’s%20exports%20to,imports%20of%20US%24112.08%20billion.. Last accessed 8th June, 2020 .
[iii] The Law Society of Western Australia, The Future of the Legal Profession, 2017