From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
Legal practitioners have been advised to maintain high level of professionalism in their practice and avoid denting the image of the profession for lack of efficiency.
The advice was given on Monday, at a one day “Special Session on Law Practice Building in Contemporary Times” organised by Nembe-Se Lawyers Forum in conjunction with Serenity Legal Union and partners, held in Port Harcourt.
In her speech, Chief Judge of Bayelsa State, Justice Kate Abiri, noted the declining quality of lawyers in practice, expressed worry that non-lawyers were now in doubt about the ability of the legal profession to sustain the honour of the profession.
She stressed that the honour and respect accorded the legal profession was declining, adding that lawyers must strive for excellence to maintain the pride of the profession.
Commending Nembe-Se Lawyers Forum for putting up the programme aimed at equipping the younger lawyers to be prepared in view of emerging changes in the profession, Justice Abiri noted that about 3000 lawyers were being called to the bar annually, but expressed concerns over the faith of younger lawyers.
Abiri said: “The honour and respect this very Noble profession had when growing up before I became a lawyer seem to be eroding. If after us we just leave it like that, we don’t know where it will end.
“We cannot take up arms to change the society but what God has deposited in us as lawyers will go a long way to affect our families, our villages, our states and Nigeria at large
“I worry a lot for the young lawyers. Each year, those of us that are benchers will attest to the fact that the call to bar not less than three thousand annually. I am even given an under estimation of the number.
“And with Covid-19 or no Covid-19 we are still going to call another set before the end of this year. We just want excellence in this profession. It has come to the point now where non lawyers begin to doubt the ability of a lot of the lawyers that are already called to bar”.
In an interview with The AUTHORITY, the lead speaker at the event, Mr George Etomi, noted the dynamics in the legal profession and advised the younger lawyers to strive hard to follow the trend, especially by identifying what is needed in the contemporary society, own up their skills and develop into great professionals.
He further advised that lawyers must promote peace in their practice, stressing that it is only in a peaceful environment that businesses and investments can strive.
According to Etomi “The world is changing and one of the concept responsible for this is globalization. As you know, globalization is a concept by which free movement of goods and services is guaranteed, so all the barears of free movement of goods and services are removed and services includes legal services.
“Gone are the days when we used to think law is protected because of its unique nature of law and society but those things are gone and the future most young lawyers face is the competitions outside the immediate environment.
“So, we are talking to the Nembe-Se lawyers. The competition is not necessarily lawyers in Port Harcourt or in Bayelsa, the competition is the lawyer you don’t know outside of our shores, in Pakistan, India, China etc, who because of this free movement can advise on matters concerning issues in your backyard. If you do not own your skills, you will loose out.
“Law is not excluded from anything because everything else has gone internet. What I advised them is stop feeling sorry for yourself, identify what the times are like, march forward, own your skills, learn, network and do your work to the highest professionalism and ethical standard and guarantee that the rule of law obtain in your area.
“In the part, what we hear is militancy, bursting of pipelines etc, lawyers must change their narrative because it is peace that guarantee businesses. Businesses, investments funds are attracted to where there is peace and harmony.
“Part of the lesson for today is that lawyers should go out there, identify what needs to be changed, own your skills, network, get the job done and begin to apply modern method of great professional work”, Etomi advised.
On her part, the first Nembe indigenous female Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and also a speaker at the event, Boma Ayomide Alabi, advised young lawyers to be focused on the trend and look beyond the happenings of today for a greater legal future.
Alabi said “The first thing is understand the industry dynamics. We are from the Niger Delta, what is actually going on in the industry right now? The truth of the matter is if you look at what’s happening in the energy sector, in the next coming years we may not have an industry because people are moving away from fossil fuels. So young lawyers should be focusing on whats coming next and we need to prepare to go beyond what’s happening today”.
Another speaker, Prof Damfebo Derri, Dean, Faculty of Law, Niger Delta University, stressed that in the present day society, the lawyers must have some ethical qualities to survive.
He maintained that diligent, honesty, capacity, specialization, adapting to change are attitudes a lawyer must imbibe to succeed in the profession.
Earlier in his welcome speech, chairman, Nembe-Se Lawyers Forum’, Ayebaesin Beredugo, said the body was an association of lawyers from the Nembe ethnic group presently comprising of about 200 members.
Beredugo disclosed that the session was aimed at allowing the participants and the speakers to share experiences and exchange ideas in and around the theme and other associated legal issues.
Beredugo said: “The session seeks to enlighten and expose Nembe-Se lawyers to new trends in law practice and the opportunities that lie for Nembe lawyers.”
He thanked the Chief Executive Partner of Serenity Law Union and Partners, HRH David Serena-Dokubo Spiff, Amadabo of Spiff Ama for ensuring the success of the session in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.