The 2022 LIFIN Academic conference came with a life transforming experience. The knowledge gotten from the conference is something every young professional need to acquire knowing fully that same can never be gotten within four wall corners of classroom.
In fact, it was an experience that one needed to apply in the course of the legal journey considering the Nigerian educational system, the working environment and the challenges faced daily.
Having received a communique on WhatsApp regarding the LIFIN Academic Conference 2022, I sensed from within that would be a life transforming event and vowed to never miss the conference. I saw the event from afar as a great opportunity that will help in sharpening my legal journey.
Seeing the topic, “Retooling Legal Education in Nigeria For Competitiveness in the Global Economy: A Dialogue”, instilled hope and anxiety in me that the conference would be a great one. Not only that, on knowing the conference featured 8 panellists who are great mentors in their respective areas of practice in law inspired me more.
Having this information made me to get prepared for the great event. The conference was held on the 17th of December 2022. It started at exactly 10 am and the session was well moderated by Solomon Oluwaseun Olukoya and David Chibueze Njoku Esq, the National President of LIFIN.
The panelist spoke on various issues and challenges and suggested various measures that can help in the situation.
The first speaker was Dr. Samson Osagie who took us through the history of the legal profession and highlighted some of the challenges that emerged in the course of the development.
Precious Toju being the second speaker addressed some of the causes of degeneration in the legal profession despite the technological advancements.
According to her, lack of due diligence by lawyers who either copy and paste or rely on old opinion of old writers are one of the key problems affecting the practice of law.
She emphasises that lawyers are known for due diligence. Some lawyers instead of going to the library to do thorough research while executing their duties, they prefer to go and compile a work online without even checking whether the opinion of such writer has been outdated with time. Many of them no longer visit the physical library to get some authorities or make research and does not tell well of them.
Further, Kelechi Ibe, while addressing the reason why people still rush to study law despite the prior loss of interest in law noted that many people lost interest in studying law due to certain false believe that lawyers have to spend time gathering experience and working for others.
He noted that the law that is all about getting hold of opportunities. According to him, now people look at the law with a broad view considering the emerging areas of law. He advised that starting with a law firm could be a good idea or could also working with tax or accounting firm which is even outside law.
However, Dr Kingsley Udofa spoke about the UK system of teaching law while comparing the study of law in UK and Nigeria. He noted that in UK, the modules of the academic are designed based on the industry needs and consider what skills the law students requires. This has been a problem in Nigeria for a very long time.
According to him, mooting and drafting start from year one in UK. He pointed out that there is lack of emphasis on skill development in Nigeria noting that is just about delivering the content and cramming. While in the UK, they give students the case book for exams with the interest in knowing how to apply the law.
He further pointed out that though lack of technological materials might contribute to the lack of quality legal education, however, there is a need to redesign the modules considering some of the defects, and lawyers should bring more knowledge to the table.
Speaking on the impact of the strike on the educational system, Ogwochukwu Obed Okocha opined that the Academic Union strike has seriously affected the educational system. He added some of the lecturers who are embarking on the strike is solely for their selfish interest.
He further posited that even before the strike action, their level of dedication is appalling.
However, Dr Samson argued that negative impact is due to the government’s failure to address the issue of education. We don’t have a government that is disciplined enough because they enter into an agreement which they didn’t keep to.
Dr Kingsley added that it should be a collective responsibility. Those who are supposed to be managing our institution are mismanaging it. That industrial action is a global phenomenon.
Charles Emejuo addressed the question on why different faculties of law are being established in Nigeria while many lawyers are being produced without prerequisite skills; is there a need to reduce the number of students admitted into the profession?
He noted that the problem is not the number but how they get into the job. The problem is that job opportunities are not being harnessed. Currently, what he is doing is not law but he applied to the position with his law degree certificate.
Also, the syllables are not designed to equip students with practical skills.
Furthermore, Daniel Buter address the issue of whether one year at law school is enough to give the experience and skills required for the profession? He stated that there is a problem with the legal education.
Building on Dr Kingsley’s speech, the law is a practical based profession that has to start at the university level. Is not about one year in law school but it has to start at the University. He noted that the curriculum should be skill-based.
Imagine a lecturer teaching students on tort and taking them to court to practicalize it. He added that Moot court participation should be encouraged. Coming to the Nigerian law school, although is made to teach practical skills but the method they deployed is more theoretical and not practical-based.
He further emphasises that if you teach someone about the incorporation of a company, you should incorporate a company in class, that teaching outdated knowledge in law school also contributes to producing substandard lawyers.
He lamented that only few students today participate in the mock trials. Thus, in order to encourage creativity, law firms and recruiters of lawyers should work on remunerating lawyers.
Precious also added that all law lecturers should be involved in the practice of law and the curriculum should be reviewed to include law in practice not just theory. Also, law chamber attachment should be made compulsory and mentorship should be highly encouraged.
Lastly, Agbo Obinna answered a question on “How can a 21st-century lawyer position himself amid the global changes ?”
According to him, the Universities are too traditional and law students should be exposed to emerging areas of the law such as IP, Finetech blockchain, etc. Moreso, platforms like LinkedIn help in self-branding and students should get some employable skills and be active on social media, networking, working remotely, freelancing and so on.
Dr Kingsley added that there is a need to network and have the knowledge and know what the people wanted.
This is the summary of what I learnt at the LIFIN 2022 Academic session and it was indeed a mind blowing session. It was a pleasure having such a great session and a rare privilege. I sincerely appreciate LIFIN, David Njoku, Solomon, and all our speakers for that amazing session. I must commend LIFIN for this initiative.
About the Author
Rifkatu Ali is a final-year law student at Edo State University Uzairue (EDSU). She is an active learner, legal writer and researcher who has a strong penchant for legal writing and legal research.
Rifkatu Ali has written many articles and won several essay. She has interest in Tech Law, ADR, Corporate/Commercial Practice and Human Rights amongst others. She had interned virtually with Omaplex Law Firm, Legal Ideas Forum International and Hilton Top Solicitors and currently interns physically with Ipkonmwosa J. Eguakun & Co.
Rifkatu is a leader and has been appointed the Director of Research at the National ADR Research and Editorial Board. She is the Edo State Director of Learned Minds and the Speaker of EDSU LAWSA Legislative House.