- The Vice Chairman, Body of Benchers,
Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, SAN, Life Bencher
- Past Chairmen of the Body of Benchers,
- Former Chief Justices of Nigeria,
- Distinguished Members of the Body of Benchers,
- Hon. Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice;
Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Life Bencher
- The Chairman, Council of Legal Education
Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN
- President of the Nigerian Bar Association
Olumide Akpata, Esq
- Honourable Judges and Kadis,
- Distinguished and Honourable Members of the National Assembly,
- Honourable Judges and Kadis,
- Members of the Inner and outer Bar,
- Your Royal Highnesses,
- The New Wigs,
- Proud Parents and Guardians,
- Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
- Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I count it a rare privilege to address you all at this occasion of the July 2021 Call to Bar Ceremonies. I will commence this speech by first giving thanks to the Almighty God for sparing our lives in good health to witness this epoch-making event.
No doubt the Legal Profession is an ancient one. Today we are marking the formal admission of the new wigs into this ancient and noble profession of law; a profession whose members are largely known with the two major attributes of diligence and vigilance. Therefore, I heartily rejoice with the new entrants for successfully attaining this height in both educational and professional careers, thereby becoming members of the legal profession in Nigeria.
The success you achieved can be attributed to divine favour from God Almighty, hard work, and the support of your parents, guardians and friends.
The journey that lies ahead of you is by far more than the distance you have covered thus far. I urge you that in the days and years to come, you must remain steadfast, dedicated and persevere at all times, this way, you will succeed as lawyers.
The Body of Benchers:
It is important for you to know the relevance of the Body of Benchers. The Body of Benchers is the Body of Legal Practitioners of the highest distinction in the Legal Profession in Nigeria. May I use this medium to commend members of the Body of Benchers for the vital role the Body played over the years in upholding the core values of the profession. The Screening Committee of the Body has certified you the aspirants as fit and proper persons for admission into the Nigerian Bar.
May I also commend the Director-General of the Nigerian Law School Prof. Isa Ciroma, SAN and his team of academic and non-academic staff for their commitment in training the students and equipping them with the essential knowledge and expertise required to be a successful lawyer.
To the new wigs, it is pertinent at this juncture for me to draw your attention to some salient points which will serve as a useful guide as you commence your sojourn into the Legal Profession.
Adherence to the Rules of Professional Conduct:
The Rules of Professional Conduct is a set of ethical guidelines binding on every Lawyer in Nigeria. You are expected to adhere to the provisions of the Rules at all times if you truly desire to succeed in this profession.
As a Lawyer, you are an officer of the Court and accordingly, you are not to do any act or conduct yourself in a manner that will obstruct or adversely affect the course of justice. The practice of law is not a right, but a privilege. It is a privilege that can be lost should you fail to live up to the requisite professional standards imposed upon you by virtue of your entry into the community of lawyers. You must, therefore, strictly adhere to the provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct and maintain best practices at all times.
Along with the pleasures and privileges of practice come many responsibilities. Chief among these responsibilities will be the duty to serve the public ethically, diligently, and competently. As members of a learned and noble profession, you will be required to carry out your duties in a professional manner. This entails demonstrating a high sense of civility, honesty, integrity and compliance with laid down rules and regulations. You must commit yourself to the fair administration of justice and to doing your part in facilitating true access to justice.
As a Lawyer, you are expected to represent or defend your client when called upon. In so doing, you are to remain committed to the best interest of your client. This must however be within the purview of the law. This commitment will require you to understand your role in the adversarial process. Clients who seek your advice are often overwrought, angry and defensive. When that happens, they legitimately will expect you to convey their feelings of injustice and outrage. They may also, however, insist that you adopt a position that would require you to relax or ignore your duty as a professional. You must have the wisdom and the courage to refuse to act for a client when the client’s instructions would cause you to violate an ethical duty.
The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee
One of the vital functions of the Body of Benchers is the discipline of erring lawyers. The Body performs this important role through the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, which is a Committee of the Body of Benchers established by Section 10 of the Legal Practitioners Act, 1962(as Amended).
The Committee is responsible for considering and determining any case where it is alleged that a person whose name is on the Roll has conducted himself in a disreputable manner in his capacity as a Legal Practitioner. The LPDC may discipline erring Legal Practitioners whose conduct negate the sacrosanct standards of the profession or amount to infamous conduct in professional respect. It is also responsible for examining any other conduct that may be the subject of proceedings under the Legal Practitioners Act.
The Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee has been carrying out its mandate in a just and fair manner without giving room for compromise, affection or ill-will. From January to July 2021, three (5) lawyers were disbarred, six (6) lawyers were suspended (ranging from two (2) years to four (4) years) and one (1) lawyer was admonished.
You are therefore advised to be of good behaviour and abide by the ethics and tradition of the profession to avoid being brought before the Committee.
Nigerian Bar Association:
As a Professional, you must actively participate in the affairs of The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) which is the umbrella body for all Legal Practitioners in Nigeria. I, therefore, encourage you, as my brand new learned colleagues to pay your Practice fees on or before the 31st of March yearly as stipulated by Rule 9 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
You are expected to register with any branch of the Association, which is closer to your town or city of practice that will serve as your local branch and also endeavour to take advantage of the professional development programmes organized by the NBA and other accredited bodies in order to keep yourselves abreast with the current trends within and outside the profession.
As you enter into the legal profession, do not try to go it alone, even if you intend to be a sole practitioner. You will find everywhere experienced colleagues at the Bar who will be more than willing to mentor you and help you get through difficult problems. All you have to do is ask them. And the magic you will discover is that you too, in time, will be able to become someone else’s mentor. Mentoring and permitting yourself to be mentored are both elements of being a good professional. In fact, the process of mentoring is one of the best traditions of our profession of which I in particular have greatly benefited from.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT):
The impact of ICT in the Legal Profession cannot be overemphasized and as 21st Century Lawyers, you must not be left out in the struggle to harness its full potential for effective Law Practice. There is no gain saying the fact that the future of Law Practice in Nigeria today has remained bright with the advent of legal analytic software’s and the internet which has provided a complete range of Legal information and source materials including Judicial decisions.
ICT can be of great value to you in daily practices in a Law Firm, client counselling can be done online via Zoom and other social media platforms. Clients can even pay for Legal services via electronic banking system and filing fees can also be paid through the same platform.
No Lawyer should see the computer anymore as an ordinary office machine that is meant for the secretary to use alone. Gone are the days when the computer was rooted to just one location and when you are not on location, there is nothing that may be done. Presently there are a range of solutions available to access the computer and files remotely. It is now possible to take virtually all of your documents with you wherever you go. Thus the Lawyer on the road can keep on working as well as the Lawyer within the comfort of the office.
It is not enough that you are aware of the developments in the ICT sector; you must be able to maximize computer usage and enjoy the attendants benefit to the maximum. There are at least four essentials a Lawyer must have to maximize computer usage i.e. unrestricted access to the computer, appropriate software, internet connection and training. Globalization is the word right now. You must work yourselves into the mainstream of the technological development affecting the Legal Profession as you cannot afford to sit back and watch.
To perform your professional task with competence, I encourage you to read widely and continue to update your knowledge of both statute and case law as well as imbibe good understanding of what is obtainable in other jurisdictions outside the shores of the country. In the words of Lord Radcliff, “you cannot train a judge to be judge but you can educate a lawyer to be a lawyer.” By being called to the Bar today you are on the threshold of the beginning of your education to become lawyers and I assure you that you will enjoy every bit of law practice.
As you celebrate, I urge you to be responsible and avoid actions inimical to the ethics of the profession. Bear in mind that you have been called to the Nigerian Bar and not the social bar therefore you must resist the temptation of adorning your Lawyers Robe to any party.
Once again, I extend my sincere congratulations to all the new wigs and formally address you as my learned friends. Always remember how much you have laboured in time past and the sacrifices your loved ones have made for you to succeed and strive to exhibit the highest sense of responsibility which the legal profession is known for all over the world.
Having achieved this milestone, may your lives be forever enriched.
Chairman’s Charge to New Legal Practitioners
In time honoured tradition, I hereby close with the Chairman’s charge to our newly called Legal Practitioners.
“YOU MAY NOW GO FORTH IN YOUR NEW WIGS FROM THIS DAY FORWARD TO SERVE NIGERIA AND SERVE HUMANITY IN JUSTICE, WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR, AFFECTION OR ILL WILL.”
Thank you for listening. I pray that God in his infinite mercies will take each and every one of you safe to your respective destinations.
HON. JUSTICE OLABODE RHODES-VIVOUR, CFR
Chairman, Body of Benchers, Life Bencher