A former Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law, Mr Olumide Akpata, has advocated a review of the Nigerian Law School curriculum to reflect the current realities in today’s legal practice.
Akpata, who is the Head of Commercial Practice at Templers, a front-line Nigerian commercial law firm, said experience with fresh law graduates had shown that they lack the knowledge to fit into today’s law practice.
He said it was lamentable that the curricula being used in the universities and the Nigerian Law School had hardly changed over the years.
Akpata, in a chat with journalists, also called for a change of orientation among lawyers not to limit themselves to dispute resolution, an area of legal practice, he said, had become saturated.
He said the notion that dispute resolution was the only thing worth doing had impoverished many a lawyer and limited the growth of many law firms.
He said, “When we get to interview these young lawyers who say they want to join us, the first thing that hits you, even with the one who has first class from law school, is that they don’t have the knowledge to deal with law today. But it’s not their fault. What are they being taught? They have book knowledge; they are following a curriculum that I followed 20 years ago when I entered the University of Benin, how can anybody still be teaching people with that kind of curriculum in today’s world? In 2020, you are not offering Technology Law, there is nothing about commercial awareness to make lawyers understand that they are operators in an economy; that we are the pivot in the economy because all the relationships in the economy are underpinned by legal documentation. That is what we are supposed to be doing.
“But unfortunately, young people who look up to their elders are being told that if you want to succeed in this profession, wear your wig and your gown. So, what is the effect? We are all operating in a small corner called dispute resolution, litigation and we have left the rest.
“The profession is constricted in one corner; meanwhile, we are in the largest economy where today Dangote is building a refinery that should be a lawyer’s delight in other jurisdictions. But how many Nigerian lawyers are involved in the Dangote project? LNNG is on a N10bn project, how many Nigerian law firms are involved? The value of the legal services market is so high but we don’t participate; foreign lawyers do our work.”
Akpata said though the Nigerian legal profession had put up a barrier to check the influx of foreigners, such a barrier would not last much longer.
He said, “Those boundaries will come down because you can’t say you want to participate in the world that has become a global village and you are blocking people from coming into your economy. It is not possible.”
He called for “a structured approach from the position of policy,” for an improvement in the quality of the Nigerian legal education.
Akpata said, “We run the law school; the Director General of the Nigerian Law School is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; we have the influence to tell every Faculty of Law that if you don’t teach these courses, your products won’t come into the law school. But the problem is that, that is not what our people are interested in. Our people are interested in election petitions – ‘When you are going to the Villa to see the President, make sure my name is in the delegation’. It is self-interest at the expense of the profession.”
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