Repositioning Nigerian Legal Education for A Globally Competitive Legal Market in The 21st Century
The old adage remains that change is constant and law is an instrument of social engineering. Therefore, as society changes so do law. The legal world is and will continue experience changes. The best that the administrators of legal education can do is to embraced the changes rather than been defensive or thinking on how to stop it from happening.
The Nigerian legal system is experiencing radical changes in practice. It is pertinent to extend these changes to the conventional lecture room of legal education. This paper seeks to discuss the brief history of legal education in Nigeria, the current state of the legal education, changes in the legal world, the need to reposition the legal education and finally, the way forward.
THE BRIEF HISTORY OF LEGAL EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
In August 1860 Lagos was ceded to the Queen of England as a result became a British colony. Therefore, all laws applicable in England became applicable to Lagos. However, there was shortage of qualified practitioner during this era. Therefore, the Supreme Court Ordinance of 1876 was promulgated for the purpose of admission of more persons to practice law in Nigeria. Nonetheless, from 1876—1959 those practicing law in Nigeria were basically foreign trained lawyers therefore had little or no idea of indigenous customary law in Nigeria. In 1959 Unsworth Committee was set up to look in the matter and the committee made the following recommendations.
- To have a Nigerian legal education system
- A council of legal education should be set up
- Faculty of law should be established in Nigerian universities starting from University of Ibadan.
- A Nigerian Law School should be established in Lagos.
Qualification for admission in the law school should be by obtaining law degree from university recognized by the Council of Legal Education andthe vocational court prescribed.
Till date the requirement of the Nigerian legal education is to study law in the university, get call to bar and become the barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. The important question to be asked is that, is the Nigerian legal education really qualifying lawyers to handle what they meet in the legal market? This question will lead me to discuss the next sub heading.
THE CURRENT LEGAL EDUCATION
The legal market is changing rapidly while the Nigerian legal education curricula unfortunately, is not changing at the same pace or not changing at all. It is important to note that several technological innovations have emerged in the field of law but the Nigerian legal education curricula are not changing to meet the current legal demand in the legal market. It is worthy of note that legal education curricula ought to be organic rather than being static. Gone are the days where legal profession is known for conservatism and traditionalism.
I finished my secondary school and university education without little or no practical knowledge of computer. My first practical experience with a computer was at the Nigerian Law School. This may sound funny but it is the truth. Our conventional legal education, sorry to say is a cabbage in cabbage out. It is high time that skills are inculcated into the Legal Education Curriculum. In the legal market, it is impossible to see a law firm working without a computer set. And lawyers churned out of the Law School yearly ready to go into the legal market without little or no knowledge of computer. It may be surprising to note that without computer knowledge some law firms may not even employ a fully qualified lawyer. It is high time the curricula of the Legal Education be model in this direction to meet the demand in the legal market. The perspective of Legal Education should be, as the legal market will be not as it once was.
CHANGES IN THE LEGAL MARKET AND THE NEED TO REPOSITION THE NIGERIAN LEGAL EDUCATION
Information technology is causing drastic changes in the legal market and if urgent step is not taken to bring the Nigerian legal education curricula up to date, it will end up bringing out outdated lawyers. It is simply inconceivable that information technology will radically alter all corner of economy and society and yet somehow legal works will be exempted from any change.
Having said that, it is pertinent to discuss some of the changes in the legal market as caused by technologies
E- MAIL COMMUNICATION
This is also call electronic mail. It is a method of exchanging messages between people using electronic device. It is exchange of computer- stored messages by telecommunications. E- mail is virtually taken over every form of sending messages in the legal industries. Even majorities of law firms method of employment is based on E-mail. Recently the Supreme Court of Nigeria okay electronic mail as means of communication between the court and lawyers.
It was the old practice for lawyers to carry big books to courts to show how serious they are. Nowadays intelligent lawyers don’t go about with big books but gadgets. With just a small android phone in the lawyer’s hands he can accesses the whole world. Legal research is wholly turning to electronic base with the advent of different platforms in legal industries. In Nigeria, we have Lawpavilion which has almost all the laws, even some textbooks. Recently, on 14th June 2020. Lawpavilion lunch E-law of Lagos state. Similarly, there are other technological disruptions such as Legalpedia, Lawstrive, Legalpedra and so on. In the global scene we have disruptive technologies such as IBM, Legalzone,Willmaker, Ravellaw and Casetext.
Social media are interactive mediated technologies that facilitate the creation or sharing of information, ideas career interest and other forms of expression via virtual communication and network. Such social media platforms are Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, and twitter and so on. Cybercrimes are now common especially on social media.
VIRTUAL COURT SITTING
Video conference, zooming, webinars are now common means of gathering. The Supreme Court of Nigeria recently okay virtual hearing. On 26-28th August, 2020the Nigerian bar association (NBA) held its first ever virtual conference. This is a confirmation that technology changing a lot of things in the conventional legal world. Nowadays, students do online presentation through zooming or webinarespecially in this pandemic era. It will be a technological turn around if student are properly taught on how to use such emerging technologies.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)
Artificial intelligence is defined by Britannica as the ability of digital computer control robot to perform task commonly associated with intelligent being. The terms is frequently applied to project of developing system endowed with intellectual processes and characteristic of human, such as ability to reason, discover, meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience. Example of such is the achievement of WATSON, IBM AI, based system that competed in a live broad cast in 2011 on the US television general knowledge quiz show jeopardy. Surprisingly WATSON beat the show two finest ever human contestants. Though AI is not popular in Nigeria, it will definitely take the space of some legal service in the nearby future especially in this era of pandemic. God forbid but if a pandemic like covid-19 surface again, people may totally resort to use of robot for the sake of social distance.
THE WAY FORWARD
The Council of Legal Education needs to change their curricula to include computer education. Practical computer education should be taught from university to law school level. It should be the target of the Council that no lawyer should come out of the law school without practical knowledge of computer. We are gradually getting to an era where power point slides may take care of physical court sitting through virtual hearing.
Entrepreneurial skill should be full incorporated into the legal education curricula. Legal practice itself is a form of business. In this 21st century liberalization is gradually taken over the legal market. It is high time lawyers also trained from all aspect in order to adapt in the event of challenges in the legal market.
It is also important for Nigerian Legal Education system to introduce courses that can be taken by foreign lecturers, expert from different area of technologies eg. Apple company, HP,Microsoft etc. this lecture can be conducted online, or through webinar. Collaboration and partnership across geographical boundaries in the legal market is of a great importance to the Nigerian legal education.
It is also the opinion of this writer that logic should be taught in the law school. Most aspects of legal works in practice deal with logic. Therefore, there is nothing if lawyer are well trained to meet the challenges ahead. I was invited for a test in AELEX LEGAL; it was my first time of seeing questions(LSAT and GMAT) or hearing about it. If I was properly trained, it wouldn’t have been a challenge to me as it was that day.
-Pearse Adedoyin -Rethinking Legal Education for the 21st-Century Lawyer Today’s Legal Marketplace.
-Richard Susskind- Tomorrow’s Lawyers Introduction to your future.
-Ogugua Ikpeze- Education in the 21st century Nigeria: Need for Diversity in Content and paradigm
-Mamman T. Globalization and Challenges for legal Education in Nigeria.
The writer’s information
Name: Ejeh Damian Ejeh
Phone Number: 08062074706
Address: FCT Abuja Nigeria.
Occupation: Legal Practitioner.
Call Bridget Edokwe Esq on 08060798767 or send your email to email@example.com
07044444999 or 08181999888. Visit our website: www.alexandernigeria.com/
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