Ex NBA GS, Joyce Oduah writes IBA President, requests reduction of Conference Fees for Lawyers in Developing Countries
Immediate former General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mrs Joyce Oduah has asked the International Bar Association President, IBA to reduce membership and Conference Fees for Young Lawyers in Developing Countries.
Mrs Oduah made the appeal in a letter dated 3rd March, 2023 and addressed to the President of IBA.
Read the full letter below
Almudena Arpon de Mendivil Aldama The President
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International Bar Association
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PROPOSAL FOR REDUCTION OF MEMBERSHIP AND CONFERENCE FEES FOR LAWYERS AND YOUNG LAWYERS IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
My name is Joyce Oduah FICMC, Principal Partner, Joyce Oduah & Co, Former Council Member of the International Bar Association (IBA), Vice President West Africa, Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), Immediate Past General Secretary, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Member Common Wealth Lawyers’ Association (CLA). I wish you hearty congratulations on your assumption into the office of President of the International Bar Association (IBA); it is an honour well deserved. The purpose of this letter is to propose a reduction in IBA membership and conference fees for lawyers and young lawyers in developing countries. The statistics and examples used in this proposal are derived from Nigeria and United Kingdom.
On the 1st day of November, 2022, I presented a paper as a Panelist at the International Bar Association Conference 2022 in Miami, Florida, USA on the topic International Strategy and the IBA: Building and Developing an International Strategy for Young Lawyers and its Implementation. The goal of the paper was to create a strategic framework based on best practices through which young lawyers could gain entrance into the international legal space and also position themselves for success in the international legal market especially through membership of the IBA and participation in IBA programmes and conferences amongst others. Young lawyers are the future of the legal profession in the global, regional and national scenery, and this includes the IBA. This is the reason the deliberate steps by the IBA to ensure growth of the young lawyers through active participation in International Bar Association (IBA) is a praiseworthy development.
These steps include session for young lawyers in conferences, access to research tools, mentorship, continuing legal development and scholarship opportunities.
Upon research, however, I discovered that certain categories of lawyers are inadvertently excluded from access to the benefits of membership of and participation in IBA activities not for absence of knowledge but due to inability to afford membership fees and conference fees. This category of lawyers includes Lawyers (more especially young lawyers) in Developing countries. Based on the above discovery, I suggested in the session that the IBA take active steps to ensure the inclusion of these category of lawyers through the reduction of membership and conference fees to ensure and promote diversity and inclusivity in IBA activities. Members of the panel which included Bruno Oliveira Maggi, Arturo Alessandri Cohr, Irina Paliashvili, Arush Khanna, Ramesh Vaidyanathan and Manuela de la Helavera, as well as all participants in the session found this suggestion favourable and requested that I present a proposal to the office of the President suggesting a reduction in membership and conference fees for lawyers in developing countries. It is my belief that based on your positive attitude to the development of lawyers (especially young lawyers) as well as your stance on ensuring inclusivity in the Association, this proposal would be accepted and implemented by you beginning in the forthcoming IBA Conference in Paris, France.
OBJECTIVE OF PROPOSAL: To emphasize the need for the IBA to improve and increase participation of lawyers particularly young lawyers in developing countries like Nigeria in IBA activities, conferences and leadership opportunities through reduction of membership and conference fees for this category of legal practitioners.
RATIONALE FOR REDUCTION
- Affordability of Conference Fees: Due to the economic situation in most developingnations as well as the high cost of purchasing foreign currency, legal practitioners from these regions are unable to participate actively in IBA activities and conference. This is moreso for young lawyers from these emergent nations. For example, the average salary structure of a Legal Associate in Nigeria is One Hundred and One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty-Seven Thousand Naira (₦101,737) and One Million, Two Hundred and Twenty Thousand, Eight Hundred and Forty-Four Naira (₦1,220,844) per annum https://www.payscale.com/research/NG/Job=Associate_Attorney/Salary. Converted to dollars at the official exchange rate of ₦460.87 to $1 as at 20th February, 2023, an average Nigerian Associate earns about Two thousand, Six hundred and Forty-Eight Dollars ($2,648) per The 2022 IBA early bird conference fee for young lawyers was approximately Two Thousand, Three Hundred and Twenty-Five Dollars ($2,325); this is One Million and Seventy-One Thousand, Five Hundred and Twenty-Two Thousand Naira (₦1,071,522.75). The conference fees alone cover almost all of the yearly income of an Associate in a Nigerian law firm. When we take into consideration the travel expenses including visa fees, air tickets, accommodation, feeding and general logistics, it will be evident that this category of lawyers lacks the financial wherewithal to enjoy the numerous benefits of IBA membership including active physical participation in IBA conferences. Older Lawyers in Nigeria and other economically developing countries are also unable to access the benefits of participating in the IBA conferences as the early bird conference fee of Three Thousand, One Hundred Dollars ($3,100); this is One Million, Four Hundred and Twenty-Eight
Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety-Seven (₦1,428,697) is too high compared to their yearly income. In the panel session, various lawyers from developing nations indicated that they had to save up for several years to be able to afford and attend the IBA conference. Lawyers who may be able to attend are a select few in public or corporate service whose conference fees and travel expenses are borne by the Government or the corporate organizations and these persons may only be able to attend once in their lifetimes. Where the Conference fees are reduced for these classes of members, they will be empowered to participate in and contribute to the IBA on a larger and more effective scale.
- Inclusivityand Diversity: The IBA is known for promoting inclusivity, diversity and equal participations of all members irrespective of their nationality, religious affiliations, sexual orientation and economic status. However, certain members of the association are unable to harness the wide range of benefits derivable from the IBA due to financial constraints as described While equality is a key consideration in organizational participation in that individuals or groups should be given access to the same resources or opportunities pari passu, equity buttresses that some persons may be unable to access these opportunities due to the peculiarity of their circumstances and so cost of access should be determined pro rata. Justice therefore demands that such persons should be given special considerations in accessing these opportunities. For example, the average salary of an Associate Lawyer in London per annum is Eighty-Nine Thousand and Eighty-Three Pounds (£89,083) https://uk.indeed.com/career/law-associate/salaries/London. Compared to the average salary of an associate in Nigeria, a practitioner in London earns 3,964% more than a Nigerian lawyer. While the former would be able to afford conference fees with ease, the latter would not. In this case, the special considerations for the lawyers from developing countries like Nigeria is reduction in membership and conference fees to enable them, like their counterparts in developed countries, be a part of the Association and have access to career changing opportunities. Ultimately, equitable interferences may be the route to achieving true equality. This will promote diversity and its attendant benefits to the membership, participation and leadership of the International Bar Association.
- TheFuture of the IBA: Affordability of the conference fees will encourage active participation of all categories of lawyers including young lawyers in activities of the IBA; thus, leading to an increase in the number of members from diverse nationalities who, from an early stage, have experienced the workings of the IBA and have learnt and grown in the Not only will they be in the association longer, they will also have the opportunity to teach and mentor younger ones therefore ensuring the longevity of the IBA and preserving the vision and culture of the association even in the local bar associations. This will also encourage diverse cultures in the leadership of the IBA in the long run thus expanding the perspectives, ideologies and creativity in the decision-making of the association.
BENEFITS TO THE INTERNATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION
- Impact: By increasing participation of lawyers in developing countries, the IBA will havegreater impact in the international legal This will give members of the association a greater sense of belonging and willingness to contribute their quota to the overall growth of the association.
- Image:An effective association is one concerned about the growth and development of its Reduction of membership and conference fees will boost the image of the IBA as one which values all categories of members and is actively concerned with their welfare and growth.
- Innovation:The growth in the national and social diversity in the membership and consequently leadership of the association will promote innovative contributions, ideas and decision making which will lead to sustained and incremental growth of the association as the leading Bar Association worldwide.
- Increase: The implementation of this proposal will increase the quantity, quality anddiversity of legal practitioners who participate actively in IBA activities. This will, in the long run, increase the revenue base of the
Let me also state that the contents of this proposal are been implemented by other International Lawyer’s Associations like the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association (CLA) where I am also a Member. Conference Fees are reduced based on the economic development of the country (i.e. developing countries) and the numbers of years in practice (i.e. young lawyers) https://www.clc- goa2023.com/registration.html. The IBA in the past also subscribed to this model of determining conference and membership fees based on the economic classification of the individual’s country. This practice should be revived as it allows for greater participation of lawyers regardless of their nationalities and economic status.
It is on the basis of the foregoing that I appeal to you to use your good office to implement the reduction of the IBA membership and conference fees – beginning from the IBA conference 2023– for members of the legal profession in developing countries like Nigeria as this will be beneficial not only to them but also to the IBA.
I wish you a successful tenure as President of our great Association. Thank you.
Joyce Oduah, FICMC
Principal Partner Joyce Oduah & Co
Former Council Member International Bar Association (IBA) Vice President West Africa Pan African Lawyers’ Union (PALU) Immediate Past General Secretary, Nigerian Bar Association
CC: Dr Mark Ellis, Executive Director, IBA