Some changes have been introduced in the training and practice of law in Nigeria, including the introduction of new rules of practice and procedure but there are concerns that legal education is yet to translate into more efficient performances by legal practitioners.
In an exclusive interview with Notable Outcome’s publisher, Iheanyi Ezinwo, in Port Harcourt on the changes in legal practice and education overtime, a former National President of Nigerian Bar Association, Hon. OCJ Okocha, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, confirmed that there have been changes in the training and practice of law overtime.
“They have introduced what they call clinical legal education, but the extent to which it has changed the landscape for legal practice is still not manifest to many of us.
“Rules of ethics, rules of professional conduct, we now say should be taught as a subject even from the university but this has not really translated into more decorous conduct from legal practitioners, but it is an on going work”, he explained.
Hon. OCJ Okocha, SAN, who celebrated 40 years of legal practice on Tuesday (July 24), in Port Harcourt, recalled that, though Rivers State had one rules of practice and procedure in 2006, that new ones were introduced in 2010.
He also hinted that the Industrial Court was not there when he started practice in 1978 but that it was one of the products of the amendment of the 1999 constitution.
“Now we have what we call Front Loading; we never had it when I started practice. Now you have to file all the papers you will use for trial even before the matter comes up for first mention before a court. Same with the other courts: Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court rules that we are now using were made in 2015, while that of the Court of Appeal were made in 2016”, the former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Rivers State further stated.
On legal education, Hon. Okocha, SAN, said they have sadly not translated into more efficient performances by legal practitioners, stressing that “this is the problem that we still have. They should rework the curriculum for legal education so that the lawyers we train in our universities and eventually being trained to join the legal practice from the Nigerian Law School, get more practical training.
“We hope more changes will come so that our legal system can be as efficient, if not more efficient than those of developed legal systems in this world. We hope to achieve a situation whereby our courts will be more efficient, and be more readily and more speedily dispose of cases, instead of the current situation where cases drag for interminable number of years”, the senior advocate emphasized.