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The Big Question Winning Essay

CHINYERE UDENKWO Esq.

The global pandemic ravaging the world is gradually unveiling a new era, were all facet of the Economy is affected in one way or the other. The law practice as well as the administration of justice in Nigeria is not left out. Although, the Nigeria legal system was entirely analogue, there has been a steady but slow switch to technology. This has shown that legal practice and administration of justice in Nigeria is due for a reform that should usher us into the era where the use of technology in the courts would become a norm and for this digitalization to be possible every player, in the legal industry have a role to play in gearing the process. For instance in Lagos, the e-filling system had earlier been introduced and has been in use prior to covid-19 induced lockdown. This cannot be said of most other states of the Federation.

The shutdown of courts have led to the congestion of cases especially those requiring urgency and other pending matters, backlog in the delivering of judgement and delay in the administration of justice. Nigeria should take a clue from country like Kenya where a Kenyan judge recently delivered 23 judgement via skype in his chambers at the Mombasa high court.
The litigation lawyers are not left out as the shutdown of the courts is indeed frustrating. Thus this is an indication for this lawyers that the legal practice have grown beyond going to court and impressing client. There is now need for them to diversify their skills and competence to take advantage of the changing system. For instance where the litigation lawyer have to appear for a matter through the use of zoom or skype, it will definitely increase the charges of Legal services such lawyer will need to improve the infrastructural settings of his firm to be more palatable to the viewing public.
The fate of the new wigs is still a sad story to tell as the Nigeria legal system is not making any adequate provision for the accommodation of this set of individuals in the legal industry. It is a well known culture that the remuneration of an average young lawyer in Nigeria remains remarkably low due to low demands for legal services. The young lawyers should equip themselves to be grounded in the legal principles and technologies supporting legal principles as many older lawyers are mostly analogical and will need the young lawyer’s assistant to be able to meet up with the transition to digitalization. There should be a legislation guiding the employment of the young lawyer. For instances, there should be a general standard for such employment, which will make issuance of a contract of employment between the principal and the young lawyer a norm, as they are mostly at the mercy of the principal. Such contract of service should be in conformity with the provision of the Labour Act (which absolutely define who a worker is and the rights of such persons) and also a reasonable remuneration should be included.
It is pertinent to know that the global change has more than ever made digitalization of the justice system inevitable if any progress will be achieved. There should be reforms and enactment of some sort to accommodate the global change. For instance the provision of the Rules of professional conduct 2007 particularly under rule 7(1-2) which prohibits a legal practitioner from engaging in other trade or business and the provision with regard to advertising as encapsulated under rule 39(2) of the RPC calls for a reform, as Nigeria should take a clue from the united states of America legal system where a lawyer is authorized to advertise his services. This will in turn create another avenue through which a lawyer can generate income and prevent frustration faced by litigation lawyers if this Lockdown continues. The civil procedure rules of the various courts needs some readjustment, there should be provision for the inclusion of virtual sitting of courts like use of skype, zoom and the likes. There should also be provision of technological facility( zoom or skype appearance room or the likes) for the prisons and police stations to enable the inmate to adequately appear for their matters.
Although, it is noteworthy that Lagos is again blazing the trail, by releasing a Practice direction to regulate the proceedings of virtual court hearing in order to conform with the social distancing rule required in this period.
In conclusion, the digitalization of the legal practice in Nigeria will definitely lead to the downsizing of the workforce in the legal industry, but be that as it may, it will subsequently usher the system into a new era of positive growth, although there has been positive steps taken by some courts, an example is the E-filling adopted mostly by the industrial courts, and the virtual hearing held via zoom at Ikeja high court 10 Lagos state on the 4th day of May 2020 , a judgment delivered by Honourable Justice Dada is a welcome development and such growth is worthy of emulation by other courts in the country. Also Order 34 rule 29 of the Abuja Federal Capital Territory High Court Civil procedure rules 2019 which permits the admission of the evidence of a witness through video conference of any electronic devices capable of recording live(as if he is personally in attendance in the court) is a progress.
This global pandemic with it’s diverse effects should be an eye opener to the Nigeria legal system to put in place enforceable legislation to intensify the efforts towards ensuring the complete technological compliance of the court system.

3 replies on “CHINYERE UDENKWO Esq.”

This is a very insightful write up. The pandemic is indeed an eye-opener to the need to be proactive. As technology and time changes, industries must readily change and adopt/adapt with new technologies and systems in other to remain viable.

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