Nigerian lawyers should practice without borders and charge without borders too – Chief Emeka Obegolu, SAN

LEGAL PRACTICE BEYOND BORDERS BY CHIEF EMEKA OBEGOLU S.A.N

Being A Keynote Address Delivered at The Opening Ceremony of the 2023 NBA Keffi Law Week at The Nasarawa State University of The 20th Of November 2023

INTRODUCTION

“Nigerian lawyers should practice internationally and should also charge internationally- to practice without borders and charge without borders too”

To be licensed to practice law in Nigeria in whatever area of law, an aspirant must first obtain a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree, attend the Nigerian Law School, pass the Bar Finals Examinations, and be admitted to the prestigious Nigerian Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.


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The practice of law is ever-evolving. In recent years, legal practice development is driven/shaped by rapid technological advancements such as blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies; the rise of international trade and investment; and increasing globalization, which continually reinforces the world as a global village. AI is already being used to automate tasks such as legal research, document review, and contract drafting. Another trend that is shaping the future of legal practice is the rise of alternative legal service providers (ALSPs). These ALSPs offer legal services on a contract basis, often at a lower cost than traditional law firms and promptly using the available technologies.

Thus the future of legal practice is likely to be characterized by greater specialization, collaboration, technological invention and innovation. With these increasing changes in the complexities of law, lawyers must be able to prepare and adapt to these changes and provide their clients with the high-quality legal expertise that they expect in this technological age. Unprepared lawyers will fall prey to the changing times where AI and other technological innovations are likely to take out a huge chunk of lawyers’ jobs. Lawyers who can adapt to these changes and meet the new demands of clients will be well-positioned to thrive in the future.

This keynote speech therefore addresses the topic “Legal Practice Beyond Borders” to showcase how to prepare for the future and fulfil our professional responsibilities as lawyers’ in this age of technological advancement in the practice of law.

what is legal practice beyond borders?

Legal practice will continue to experience development in response to the continuous advancement of human beings as a race. The existence of human interactions necessitates the existence of law, which expands in scope as human interactions continue to develop. Human relationships and interactions have never been more complex than it is today, spanning across businesses, profession, nationalities, and jurisdictions. The future promises more of these complexities. Lawyers, therefore, have to prepare and champion developments for the advancement of justice and the satisfaction of their clients.

Overall, the phrase “legal practice beyond borders” is broad, and it can have different interpretations and connotations depending on the context. For this lecture, we will explain the topic from two contexts;

Legal Practice Beyond National Boarders

The most common interpretation of the phrase “Legal practice beyond borders” is that it refers to the practice of law that extends beyond the boundaries of a single jurisdiction or country. This practice can range from advising clients on cross-border transactions and representing clients in any foreign dispute. Lawyers who practice law beyond borders need to have a deep understanding of international law and the legal systems of the countries in which they operate. They also need to be able to build and maintain relationships with lawyers in other countries and to work effectively in a multicultural environment.

The ever-increasing global internet penetration has made the world more open in time and space. 20 years ago, it would be hard to imagine that lawyers could fully coordinate a cross-border agreement/partnership on behalf of their clients, from the comfort of their office, but today, a lawyer can go as far as initiating a smart contract using block-chain technology[1].

Legal practice beyond borders is an important part of the globalized world. Lawyers who practice law beyond borders play a vital role in facilitating transactions between businesses and individuals to operate beyond national borders.

Examples of how legal practice beyond borders-across jurisdictions operates include the following:

  • A lawyer representing a multinational corporation may advise the corporation on cross-border mergers and acquisitions, or represent the corporation in a foreign arbitration proceeding.
  • A lawyer representing an individual may advise the individual on a cross-border divorce or child custody dispute, or represent the individual in a foreign court.
  • A lawyer may also practice law beyond borders by providing pro bono legal assistance to individuals or organizations in other countries.
  • A lawyer can publish in international journals on cross-border issues like human rights, legal practice issues in migration and immigration

Legal practice beyond borders is a challenging but rewarding way of practicing law. Lawyers who are interested in practicing law beyond borders should develop a strong understanding of international law and the legal systems of the countries in which they want to operate. They should also network with lawyers in other countries and develop cross-cultural communication skills.

Some services a lawyer can aim to provide across national borders include:

  1. Legal representation of clients in foreign courts, panels, tribunals, agreements, meetings, and transactions.
  2. The Trademark and Provisional Application for Patent: Companies or entrepreneurs hoping to do international business will need the help of a Lawyer to guide them through the legal requirements of the process.
  3. Privacy Policy, Terms of Use, and Appeal Letters: here, the lawyers draft privacy policy, terms of use, and similar documents for websites and content creators e.g. online newspapers and social media influencers.
  4. Investigation, liaison, and Accountability Service: monitor, manage, and account projects/property for a client diaspora
  5. Franchise Agreement: facilitating agreement and compliance process for brands hoping to extend to and from Nigeria.

 

Legal Practice Beyond Conventional Borders

Legal practice beyond borders can also be defined to mean the practice of law, to advance the legal profession beyond the subsisting status quo, by breaking through jurisprudential borders and creating new frontiers and platforms for the practice and advancement of law. Development in the legal profession has happened time and time again in every jurisdiction. Legal practice exceeds its subsisting scope and border, anytime there is a new enactment, a new legal framework, a new way of transacting business, a new kind of technological advancement, or a new perspective/regulation to a subsisting status quo, and so on.

Specific examples of developments that have led to the advancement of legal practice beyond the conventional borders are;

  • Legal Technologies

Technology is developing so speedily that it continues to develop beyond what the ordinary mind can think is obtainable. Different innovations and inventions have redefined how businesses and other human interactions occur, as well as the nature of several professions. “Legal technology” essentially means the use of technology and software to provide and aid legal services. These developments provide an opportunity for reputable and upcoming firms to try to improve their overall efficiency and adapt to a progressively popular and agile working environment. Legal technologies have come a long way from photostats and fax machines; to email and websites; to the plethora of legal technological options we have today. Technology evolves every day hence, the need for lawyers to keep up with the trends to better meet the ever-insatiable clients, with the best possible legal representation.

Some legal technologies are designed to help law firms acquire more clients, and also help law firms serve their clients better by helping the firm operate more efficiently. Some trends within these areas include: cloud storage (cloud computing) e.g. Google Drive; social networking such as websites and social media; eDiscovery and online resources such as LawPavillion, Big Data[2], Machine Learning[3] such as ChatGPT, Blockchain,  smart contracts, etc.

Technological advancements like Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence, are already predicted as technologies that will disrupt the legal profession in an unprecedented way. As these two technologies continue to develop, they are likely to play even greater roles in legal practice, freeing up lawyers to focus on more strategic and creative work

The above legal technological advancements by implication, provide lawyers with nouvelle niches to specialise in as well as better income opportunities and freedom. The following are examples of how legal technological advancements can be utilised by lawyers to facilitate legal practice beyond conventional borders:

  • Virtual Law Firms: A true virtual law firm makes managing a law practice easier by giving clients and lawyers more options, more tools, and more locations. This is evidenced in Nigeria today, as many business-related legal services already run without a face-to-face meeting with any lawyer. Business registration services, Trademark filing, Contracts, and much more run at least 60% of the time through communication channels like Websites, E-mail, WhatsApp, etc.
  • Automation Software Applications:These applications help to automate routine tasks in a law office, such as setting up scheduled meetings, document management, case management, legal time and billings, etc., by applications like Google Calendar, Zoom, LawPavillion, etc.
  • Easier Research:Several legal research resources are designed to give accurate references and save research time expended by lawyers e.g. LexisNexis, LawPavillion, and WestLaw.
  • Legal Writing: There are many applications that lawyers can utilize to generate and edit their writings and drafts. These are mostly AI systems such as ChatGPT, Bing.ai, Grammarly, Quillbot, and Undetetectable.ai, among many others. These applications can be used to write legal opinions, do legal research, summarise documents, review contracts, write letters, draft contracts, correct grammatical errors, paraphrase, and even write briefs. AI is a very versatile tool for lawyers, lawyers should, however, beware as most of these are known to generate false cases and non-existent references just to fulfil their assignments.
  • Adaptation: Legal technologies can be infused into the legal systems to ensure speedy, efficient, and cost-effective dispensation of justice. The courts can utilise technology in several ways such as electronic filings, virtual attendance, virtual witnessing, Online Case Management, and Online Dispute Resolutions. Although some courts in Nigeria are adopting this, their numbers are very few. There is however the National Industrial Court which has gone the extra mile to provide most of these facilities and even created the NICN app to allow for easy access to employment and industrial dispute resolution
  • Better Client Service Delivery: Client-friendly information delivery can be achieved through email marketing to pass information about law office services, to give clients updates, to increase customer satisfaction, and to translate website visitors to clients.
  • New Legislation

Anytime a new bill is passed into law, it usually modifies an existing status quo to meet the desires of the enacting authority. This type of legal advancement usually opens up the practice of law in the parlance legislated upon, to dimensions previously not obtainable before its enactment. Numerous enactments and amendments of laws in Nigeria has changed and advanced the nature of legal practice in various fields of practice through their regulations and institution. For instance, the joint legislations of the Securities and Exchange Commission Decree 71 of 1979; the establishment of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) by Decree 75 of 1992, and the National Telecommunications Policy (NTP) of 2000, were pivotal to the regulation of Nigeria’s telecommunications sector as they jointly enabled private, foreign telecommunication agencies to set up shop in Nigeria. This gave birth to new agency roles and specializations for lawyers.

Lawyers should therefore keep abreast of new enactments/amendments to be able to provide a high-quality legal representation for their clients.

The following are the recent enactments/amendments that have expanded the borders of the legal practice beyond its original scope in Nigeria:

  • The New Arbitration and Mediation Act 2023: This act contains innovations that have altered the practice of ADR in Nigeria and improved it to greater international standards. Some of the advancements it has occasioned include the admissibility of electronic communication to satisfy the writing requirement of the arbitration agreement as long as it is accessible to be usable for subsequent reference; the designation of a sole arbitrator to handle the arbitration proceedings, if the parties failed to specify the number of arbitrators; the introduction of Third-party funding into arbitration; and very importantly the provision of a legal framework that regulates Mediation as an ADR mechanism in Nigeria.
  • Nigeria Data Protection Act 2023:The Act establishes the legal framework for the regulation of personal data in Nigeria and replaces the Nigerian Data Protection Regulations (NDPR) 2019 and the NDPR Implementation Framework 2019. The key provision of the Act is the establishment of the Nigeria Data Protection Commission (NDPC) and a Governing Council of the Commission. The Commission will superintend the implementation and enforcement of rules and regulations set out in the Act, and regulate the processing of personal information and other related matters, while the Council is charged with formulation and provision of overall policy direction of the affairs of the NDPC.
  • Finance Act 2023:This is the fourth in the series of Finance Acts in Nigeria. It focuses on 5 key areas: Tax Equity Reforms; Climate Change/Green Growth; Job creation/Economic growth; Reforming Tax Incentives and Revenue Generation/ Tax Administration.
  • Evidence Act 2023:The new Evidence Act primarily amends the Evidence Act 2011 (the “Principal Act”) to bring the provisions of the Principal Act per global technological advancements, and make it applicable to all judicial proceedings and courts in Nigeria. Notable innovations in the amendment entail the inclusion of electronic records, digital signatures, admissibility of electronic records, and more.
  • Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs)

ALSPs are companies that offer legal services on a contract basis, often at a lower cost than traditional law firms. ALSP’s business is legal support services, so their staff has specialized expertise to handle the high volume of specialized work, and they apply project management skills to the delivery of legal services to achieve a standardized workflow. ALSPs became prevalent during the pandemic as a remote legal option to resolve client problems and they have continued to flourish. This is due to their relatively low costs and time efficiency. This is also largely because they emphasize digital solutions, such as automation software and artificial intelligence. ALSPs have become powerful and valuable tools for increasing the efficiency of legal services, especially where the ALSP is employed by, or is a department in a bigger law firm. Typical ALSP offerings include online instant: document review, contract management, e-discovery, due diligence, compliance, legal research, litigation and investigation support, intellectual property portfolio management, consultation on legal technology, temporary staffing solutions

 

THE 21ST CENTURY LAWYER

The 21st century is technology-driven, globalized, and constantly developing across all industries and sectors. These increase in globalization and the plethora of technological advancements pose several issues for those accustomed to more traditional methods of legal practice. A lawyer of this age need not only keep abreast of important advancements, but must also understand the legal implications and the professional opportunities that come with it.

For the 21st-century lawyer to be relevant and competent to deliver quality legal services to clients, such a lawyer must be multifaceted and fluid to be able to adapt to the ever-changing times.

Consequently, the 21st-century lawyer must possess the following to have a wholesome and profitable legal practice, and to have the capacity to practice law beyond borders:

  1. Professional Competence and Qualification: A lawyer must be qualified to practice in whatever jurisdiction he chooses to practice, whether in Nigeria or across borders. A lawyer should also have professional competence and skills in whatever field he chooses to practice in to build capacity and integrity in that niche he works in. This can be achieved by writing international bar exams to be able to practice across national borders. Professional competence can also be acquired through different certifications and training in whatever practice a lawyer chooses, such as ADR, data protection law, cybercrimes, financial technology law, etc. This gives the lawyer an edge in today’s fast-paced world.

Soft skills like communication skills, critical thinking, adaptability, empathy, leadership skills, and the ability to work both independently and as part of a team cannot be overemphasized. As professionals, lawyers must be able to work effectively with other lawyers and professional partners in chambers, in court, and across jurisdictions.

  1. Knowledge seeking and Open-Mindedness: A lawyer should also be generally knowledgeable. This is because the deftness of a lawyer’s creativity is directly proportional to the range and depth of his knowledge. Lawyers should therefore consume relevant materials that improve their worldview and enhance their capacity within the legal parlance to better serve their clients and to create and/or tap into the emerging global opportunities. The way to do this is to become an avid consumer of resources (such as books and seminars) that improve you and your career prospects. Another way to do that is to write, as it is known that writing is the most active form of thinking. This forces a legal writer to gain better knowledge of the field he or she is working on.

 

  1. Technological Expertise Lawyers need to fully embrace the merits of technology and become proficient in its use. The 21st century lawyer should be a digital lawyer, who can effectively exploit legal technologies for the advancement of his legal practice. There are tech tools that can help lawyers to schedule, research, draft, manage cases, and manage clients. A lawyer seeking to scale his practice should therefore have a tech-centric work ethic to acquire and deploy them for a more efficient legal practice.
  2. Legal specialization: The law is constantly evolving and becoming more complex. As a result, lawyers are increasingly specializing in particular areas of law, as it is not obtainable anymore for a lawyer to be skilled in all aspects of law. Furthermore, the existence of legal technologies and ASLPs limits the availability of routine and non-specialized legal work for full-time lawyers, this will force a future where lawyers have to acquire a deep level of expertise in their chosen field and provide their clients with the best possible service.
  3. A Dynamic Worldview and Creativity: the 21st-century lawyer should deliberately and persistently search for new (and better) methods of doing things, as this is at the core route to making innovations that break the borders of convention in the legal practice. That something has been done a particular way forever does not mean it can’t be changed or improved. For instance, this is what gave birth to the applicability of ADR to formal dispute resolution, which offers the lawyer creative solutions to many problems a client can bring. Clients want solutions, they would continue to choose a lawyer with faster and cost-effective methods. Lawyers should therefore challenge the status quo and also seek legal inspiration from advanced jurisdictions to provide different and creative legal solutions for their clients.

 

  1. Build a Practice Portfolio: Every lawyer should have a portfolio. Having this portfolio handy will make it easy to share with clients, employers, or collaborators who may require your service or expertise at any point in time. It will help to easily track your professional progress. You can also update some of the information on your LinkedIn page, or other professional platforms. This is so that a Google search of your name would not only tell who you are and what you can do, but it would also tell what you have done and how well you have done it.

You can easily set up a Google Drive account for free and set up well-labelled folders that contain all the briefs you have worked on, your legal opinions (published or otherwise), drafts of your unpublished works, research materials on the new areas of law you want to explore and testimonials from clients.

  1. Business acumen: Lawyers today need to have a good understanding of business principles and practices. This is essential to being able to effectively advise their clients on business-related legal matters, such as mergers and acquisitions, contracts, and intellectual property, and to be able to effectively and successfully manage their law practice.

Most lawyers practice subsistent lawyering where they just practice to make ends meet. Lawyers should continually think about how to scale up their practice such as profitable partnerships, legal innovations, client service and satisfaction, project management and analytics, social media presence and engagements, and a host of other ways to make the legal practice profitable as a business.

  1. Networking: Networking is more than just meeting people, it is about making valuable professional connections. Lawyers should look for forums where other lawyers meet physically or virtually and put their ideas forward. Participate in relevant conversations and bring value to the table. Also, participating in an event or volunteering in a project will give you better opportunities to network. People always gravitate towards value.

One of the best ways to network is to join professional bodies and participate actively in their events. These organizations prefer to work with and recommend people they already know and they are sure of their capabilities.

Lawyers who can inculcate all of the aforementioned skills, would be well-positioned to succeed in the 21st century and the technologically advanced age that is upon us.

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DEVELOPMENTS IN LEGAL PRACTICE OF OTHER JURISDICTIONS IN COMPARISON WITH NIGERIA

Change as a known constant has occurred across all legal practice sectors in the world over the last decade. Every jurisdiction wants to advance the borders of its legal ecosystem for the betterment of its jurisdiction. The coming of the COVID pandemic as an unforeseen catalyst for legal technology adoption further forced these developments at unprecedented speed. Working remotely has become the new normal for many law firms and in-house legal teams. While legal practice development in some countries happened in leaps and bounds, other jurisdictions were severely crippled by the social realities of the pandemic.

Here are the most significant developments in the legal practice of some jurisdictions in recent years;

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom’s jurisdiction is arguably more advanced than any other country in the world, and foremost in the significant shift toward innovation in recent years. Here are some of those advancements in comparison to Nigeria:

  • Legal research: in the UK, legal research is now most commonly facilitated by online databases and search engines. This is a legal technology that a lot of lawyers have already invested in in Nigeria.
  • Client-centric approach: UK legal professionals are investing in creating better client experiences for their clients, from initial consultation to the final resolution of a case. This includes offering more online resources and self-help tools to clients, improving communication channels, and providing regular updates on case progress.
  • Partnership with other Sectors: Law firms are also collaborating with other industries to provide comprehensive legal services. An example is a partnership with tech companies, to provide legal solutions for emerging technologies like blockchain and AI, thereby allowing the firms to stay ahead of technological advancements and provide clients with a more holistic and integrated approach to legal services.
  • Alternative Business Structure (ABS) firms: The United Kingdom in 2007 launched Alternative Business Structures (ABS) for law firms which was implemented in 2012. This has allowed Initial Public Offering (IPOs)[4] and non-lawyer ownership of law firms. Co-Op is the first company that exploited ABS. It was delivered online only and offered fixed fees only. At its height, it was delivering services to 300,000 people in the UK, with a focus on ordinary British people, as opposed to high-income individuals. This ability to diversify has advanced the UK law practice. The UK now has approximately 2000 alternative business structure firms, many of which are innovative law firms. The Big Four accounting firms have also entered the legal services industry in the UK. Furthermore, some law firms in England have registered on the stock market.
  • Law Tech Panel: The panel was set up in 2019, and it is made up of many government individuals as well as top legal industry professionals. The panel was set up to encourage the digital transformation of legal services in England and Wales. In addition, they make sure that the laws in England are fit for modernizing the UK legal profession, and to go global from there.
  • Innovate United Kingdom: This is a government-funded initiative used to invest in solicitors and academics doing important work through a partnership with Oxford University. They invest in projects that take on the issues of data access and data sharing. This open doors to the use of Big Data as getting data from the courts and big law firms is very difficult.
  • Chang in curriculum:Manchester University has started blending computer science, business, and law school to encourage multidisciplinary disciplines to build tech-savvy lawyers. Also, they are be trained to improve their communication skills and their emotional intelligence.

 

United States of America (USA)

  • Virtual law firms: The US has significant increase in the number of virtual law offices in the country over the years. The 2014 American Bar Association (ABA) Legal Technology Survey Report showed that as of 2014, 7% of lawyers across America maintained a fully virtual law firm, compared to 3% in 2011. This population has since grown in leaps and bounds with the availability of efficient technology tools and COVID-enforced tech-globalization.
  • Review of legal professional ethics rule: the Arizona Supreme Court made a ruling that removed the former ethics rule that prohibited non-lawyers from sharing fees with legal professionals or investing in the economic interest of law firms. This would have a huge impact on the nature of legal work if other courts in the USA began to follow suit. With the elimination of the aforementioned ethics rule, legal services in Arizona can essentially be combined with any other business, such as accounting firms or tech consultant agencies, etc, just like the UK jurisdictions.
  • Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs): ALSPs, as well as “alternative businesses” are now prevalent in the USA and they have transcended their original designation as “alternative” solutions in the legal field as they now represent nearly 14 Billion USD interest in the legal industry. These non-law firm providers of legal services are seriously competing with proper law offices for clients through better pricing and technology integration with clients.
  • Mergers of big firms: There were a record 106 law firm mergers and acquisitions in 2018 in the United States. These mergers work to cross-fertilize with better clients/better work within the firms, and provide partner-initiated cross-selling to access new market segments. These mergers were incredible ways for law firms in the USA to practice beyond borders.

 

CHALLENGES TO PRACTICING BEYOND BORDERS IN NIGERIA

There are so many impediments to the practice of law beyond borders in Nigeria. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Multiplicity of qualifications and certifications

We have assessed and ascertained the need to practice law beyond the borders of Nigeria. However, different jurisdictions have different requirements. Lawyers in Nigeria who wish to practice law in other jurisdictions must typically meet the qualifications and certification requirements of that jurisdiction. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process, as it would involve taking additional bar exams and completing additional training. For example, a Nigerian lawyer who wishes to practice law in the United States must pass the bar exam in the state where they wish to practice. Additionally, they must complete a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree from an accredited law school in the United States.

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  1. Inadequate Legislation

Innovation without regulation could hurt both the innovator and the end user, with the crypto and blockchain space a case in point. This is why innovative policies are important. Some of our laws and regulations are outdated or inadequate, while the new legislation is usually due for enactment several years before it is done. This can create challenges for lawyers who are trying to practice law beyond borders, especially those specialized in an area of law with inadequate legislation, or legislation that does not meet the international standards.

  1. Ignorance of Technology and New Legal Trends

Many lawyers are not familiar with the latest technologies, or the newest acceptable legal trend and how to use them to practice law beyond borders. This can make it difficult for them to compete with better-informed lawyers and lawyers from other jurisdictions who have access to more advanced technologies.

  1. Expensive Technology

The explosion of innovations and new technologies has had a significant impact on the legal profession, and this is especially true in Nigeria. There are now several legal tech providers in Nigeria that offer a variety of products and services. This can be overwhelming for lawyers who are trying to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and innovations.

 

For example, there are now several legal technology platforms that offer access to legal solutions like research and other legal resources. However, these platforms can be expensive, and lawyers may not have the time or resources to learn which technology to prioritize and how to use them effectively.

 

  1. Poverty and Lack of Technology Investment

Many Nigerians live in poverty inclusive of lawyers. With the recent economic realities, many Nigerian law firms do not have the resources to invest in basic technologies like photocopiers, not to mention the latest technologies such as reliable internet connectivity. This can make it difficult for lawyers to compete with lawyers in other jurisdictions who have access to more advanced technologies

  1. Shortage of Lawyers

There is a shortage of qualified, especially specialized lawyers in Nigeria. This is because the number of law schools in Nigeria is limited and the bar exams are very difficult to pass. As a result, it can be difficult to qualify as a lawyer in Nigeria.

Also, with the new “Japa” mentality, many lawyers have emigrated and chosen to practice law primarily in another jurisdiction rather than across borders as expected. Another reason for this shortage is the abandonment of legal practice by young lawyers for other promising careers due to its low prospects in income for new wigs.

  1. Culture Resistance

Lawyers from Nigeria who practice law in other jurisdictions may face cultural resistance from clients, colleagues, and judges. This is because there are often significant cultural differences between Nigeria and other countries. Also lawyers from Nigeria may also find that they have different cultural expectations from clients and colleagues in other jurisdictions.

It is important to state here that despite these challenges, several Nigerian lawyers are successfully practicing law beyond borders. By overcoming these challenges, Nigerian lawyers can position themselves to play the important role of advancing the global legal profession.

 

RecommendationS TO ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES

Given the challenges to legal practice beyond borders identified above, the following recommendations are proffered as possible solutions to these challenges.

  1. On the challenge of multiplicity of qualifications and certifications
  • The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should work with other bar associations around the world to develop Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs). MRAs would allow lawyers from one jurisdiction to practice law in another jurisdiction without having to meet all of the qualifications and certification requirements of that jurisdiction.
  • The NBA should also work with the Nigerian government to establish a reciprocal licensing program. This program would allow Nigerian lawyers to practice law in other jurisdictions without having to take additional bar exams.
  • Cross-border partnerships between lawyers and law offices can be reached that allows cross border international practices. Law offices can have subsidiaries abroad or partner with another law firm to prosecute cross border legal assignments
  1. On the issue of inadequate legislation
  • The government should timeously review and update the country’s laws and regulations to ensure that they meet international standards.
  • The government should effectively and efficiently equip the Law Review Commission that is responsible for developing and updating laws and regulations related to new innovations, legal trends and other areas of law.
  1. On the issue of expensive technology
  • The government should also work with legal tech providers to develop affordable and user-friendly legal technology solutions.
  • The NBA should provide training to lawyers on how to use legal technology effectively.
  1. On the issue of poverty and lack of technology investment
  • The government should establish law e-libraries and resource centers in rural areas to provide lawyers with access to legal research materials and other legal technological resources.
  • The NBA should provide training to lawyers on how to manage their finances and invest in their businesses.
  • The government and the NBA should make concerted effort to promote the use of open source legal technology solutions, which come as a more affordable option for lawyers who have limited resources.
  • The government should support the development of legal technology start-ups in Nigeria, to encourage a more vibrant legal technology ecosystem in Nigeria and to make legal technology more accessible to Nigerian lawyers
  1. On the issue of shortage of lawyers
  • The government should continue to increase the number of law schools in the country and provide more scholarships to law students.
  • The Nigerian government could also make it easier for lawyers to immigrate to Nigeria from other countries.
  • The NBA could work with law firms to develop mentorship and training programs for young lawyers, to introduce them to the profession
  • The Body of Benchers can stipulate an acceptable minimum wage for lawyers to encourage law graduates to pursue legal practice
  1. On the issue of ignorance of technology and new legal trends
  • Lawyers should network with lawyers from other jurisdictions. This can help lawyers to learn about the latest technologies and best practices from lawyers who are already using technology to practice law beyond borders.
  • Lawyers should consciously train beyond the confines of their usual practice in Nigeria.

 

  1. On the issue of culture resistance:
  • Lawyers from Nigeria should learn as much as they can about the culture of the jurisdiction in which they are practicing law. This includes learning about the country’s history, language, customs and the peculiarities of their legal systems
  • Lawyers from Nigeria should be respectful of the culture of the jurisdiction in which they are practicing law. This includes avoiding making assumptions about people based on their culture and being willing to adapt their own behavior to conform to local norms.
  • Lawyers from Nigeria should seek out mentorship and partnership with persons who are familiar with both Nigerian and the culture of the jurisdiction in which they are practicing law. This can help them to learn how to navigate the cultural challenges of practicing law beyond borders.
  • Lawyers from Nigeria should be patient and understanding when dealing with cultural resistance. It takes time to build trust and rapport with people from other cultures.
  • Lawyers from Nigeria should join organizations and associations that represent lawyers from other jurisdictions. This can help them to build relationships with other lawyers and learn about the different cultural norms that exist in the legal profession.
  • Lawyers from Nigeria should participate in cultural exchange programs. This can help them to gain a deeper understanding of other cultures and to develop cross-cultural communication skills.

These are just some recommendations for addressing the challenges to the practice of law beyond borders in Nigeria. By implementing these recommendations, the Nigerian government and the NBA can help to create a more supportive environment for lawyers who wish to practice law beyond borders. This will help to promote international trade and investment, and it will also help to raise the profile of the Nigerian legal profession on the global stage.

 

CONCLUSION

It is a given that legal practice beyond borders is fundamental to the growth and effectiveness of a legal practitioner in the 21st Century. While it is desirable to practice beyond borders, there are daunting challenges that must be surmounted if practice beyond borders is to be achieved. It is my hope that the recommendations given would be taken as a working strategy to make it easier for lawyers to practice law beyond borders.

Thank you.

REFERENCES

  1. ALSPs Become Critical to International Expansion, Shaking up Legal Industry; Monday, November 13, 2023; @ https://businessday.ng/news/legal-business/article/alsps-become-critical-to-international-expansion-shaking-up-legal-industry/

AUSTRALIAN LEGAL PROFESSION RECORDS STRONG GROWTH AS MORE WOMEN ENTER THE PROFESSION

AUSTRALIAN LEGAL PROFESSION RECORDS STRONG GROWTH AS MORE WOMEN ENTER THE PROFESSION

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  3. A2ii Newsflash| Ghana’s new insurance law aims to increase insurance penetration and allow for new innovative insurers; 2021; https://a2ii.org/en/news/a2ii-newsflash-ghana-new-insurance-law
  4. Compliance and Regulations in South Africa https://www.appknox.com/blog/cybersecurity-compliance-and-regulations-in-south-africa

 

  1. Emeka Obegolu SAN; The Role of Bar Associations in Promoting Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR); (Being a paper delivered at the 2022 Pan African Lawyers Union Conference.)
  2. Enforcement of Judgments 2023; Last Updated August 03, 2023; Ghana; https://practiceguides.chambers.com/practice-guides/enforcement-of-judgments-2023/ghana/trends-and-developments/O14310
  3. Environmental, Social & Governance Law South Africa 2023; https://iclg.com/practice-areas/environmental-social-and-governance-law/south-africa
  4. Ghana’s new laws introduce new taxes affecting individuals and businesses; April 26, 2023; 2023-0763; https://globaltaxnews.ey.com/news/2023-0763-ghanas-new-laws-introduce-new-taxes-affecting-individuals-and-businesses
  5. How has technology changed the legal profession in South Africa?; https://www.app4legal.com/how-has-technology-changed-the-legal-profession-in-south-africa/
  6. The Nigeria Data Protection Act, 2023; September 2023; KPMG in Nigeria @ https://kpmg.com/ng/en/home/insights/2023/09/the-nigeria-data-protection-act–2023.html
  7. Top 5 Legal Practice Management Trends for 2023; 13 December 2022; https://www.collaw.edu.au/news/2022/12/13/top-legal-practice-management-trends-2023
  8. Latest developments on the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014; https://www.lssa.org.za/latest-developments/; Law Society of South Africa
  9. Legal Technologies in Nigeria; Why lawyers need to keep abreast of the trends @ https://omaplex.com.ng/legal-technology-in-nigeria-and-why-lawyers-need-to-keep-abreast-of-the-trends/
  10. Nigeria’s Finance Act 2023- Insights series @ https://www.pwc.com/ng/en/publications/nigerian-finance-act.html
  11. Practice Beyond Borders: Your Action Plan,lawpavilion; June 25, 2019; https://lawpavilion.com/blog/practice-beyond-borders-your-action-plan/
  12. Victoria Barth; RE-IMAGINING LEGAL PRACTICE IN A POST COVID-19 LANDSCAPE IN GHANA; https://www.africanwomeninlaw.com/post/re-imagining-legal-practice-in-a-post-covid-19-landscape-in-ghana; https://www.africanwomeninlaw.com/post/re-imagining-legal-practice-in-a-post-covid-19-landscape-in-ghana
  13. *By Revolutionizing the UK Legal Profession; https://clearwaylaw.com/innovation-in-the-united-kingdom-legal-profession accessed on 14/11/2023
  14. Running a Law Firm Online in Nigeria; lawpavilion; June 11, 2019 @ http://lawpavilion.com/blog/running-a-law-firm-online-in-nigeria/
  15. Soibi Ovia; Review of The Evidence Act (Amendment) Act, 2023 @https://www.doa-law.com/evidence-act/
  16. Technological advances in the legal profession; May 1st, 2023; https://www.derebus.org.za/technological-advances-in-the-legal-profession/
  17. Transformation of Ghana’s legal profession. A return to Kwame Nkrumah’s vision?; Published: February 14, 2022 4.44pm SAST; https://theconversation.com/transformation-of-ghanas-legal-profession-a-return-to-kwame-nkrumahs-vision-174921
  18. What are alternative legal service providers?; Kara Wen | March 23, 2022; @ https://www.simplelegal.com/blog/alternative-legal-service-providers
  19. Wikipedia article on artificial intelligence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_intelligence
  20. 5 Services You can Offer International Clients as a Lawyer in Nigeria; lawpavilion; June 18, 2019; https://lawpavilion.com/blog/5-services-you-can-offer-international-clients-as-a-lawyer-in-nigeria/
  21. 5 top trends impacting the legal profession now; OCTOBER 2019 | AROUND THE ABA; https://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/publications/youraba/2019/october-2019/a-management-consultant-on-how-to-navigate-5-trends-buffeting-la/
  22. Technological advances in the legal profession; May 1st, 2023; https://www.derebus.org.za/technological-advances-in-the-legal-profession/
  23. Latest developments on the Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014; https://www.lssa.org.za/latest-developments/; Law Society of South Africa

[1] “Initiating smart contracts using blockchain technology” refers to the process of creating and executing self-executing contracts that are stored on a blockchain. A smart contract is a computer program that automatically enforces the terms of a contract between two parties. It is a self-executing contract with the terms of the agreement between buyer and seller being directly written into lines of code. The code and the agreements contained therein exist on a decentralized blockchain network, which means that they are not controlled by any single entity. This makes smart contracts more secure, transparent, and efficient than traditional contracts. It can be used for a variety of contracts like real estate, supply chain management, and all forms of contracts as its applications are limitless.

[2] Big data is a giant online body of knowledge and resources

[3] Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) and computer science which focuses on the use of data and algorithms to imitate the way that humans learn, gradually improving its accuracy.

[4] Initial Public Offering (IPO) refers to the process of offering shares of a private corporation to the public in a new stock issuance.


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