Paul Usoro SAN

Paul Usoro SAN is a mild-mannered individual who has vast experience in Legal practice cutting across litigation, arbitration, mediation and corporate governance.  He is one of the Nigerian’s finest legal luminary and Senior Partner of one of the top tier law firms in Nigeria and Nigeria’s foremost Communications Law Expert In this no hold barred exclusive interview with Bayo Akinlade of THENIGERIALAWYER, Mr Paul Usoro, SAN. shares his vision for the NBA forthcoming election in 2018 and on the BOSAN event that will be coming up on November.  

Lawyers have complained that their membership of the NBA is not having any positive impact on them; what are your comments:

Lawyers may feel that the NBA is distant but we need to put it in proper perspective. National NBA is different from the Branches. The Branches are the ones tasked with knowing and caring for their members. This is however not an easy job for the Branches if lawyers are not involved in Branch activities. Lawyers should participate actively in Branch activities, make their voices heard and hold their leaders accountable within the Branch and at the level of the National through NEC

The National NBA is comprised of lawyers from the Branch level. Lawyers can approach their representatives and demand results from them. The power is therefore in the hands of Lawyers within the Branches. If you are not satisfied with the way the Branch is being run, get active and let your voice be heard; better still, run for a position, don’t switch off, don’t stop participating because things are not going your way.

What about the Stamp and Seal Issue

On the issue of the Stamp and Seal, the National is looking at making it work better but they should regularly inform members on what they are doing to make the Stamps available on time. The national should communicate regularly with the lawyers regarding the steps they are taking to resolve the backlog of Stamps yet to be produced and received by members

If you were to  lead the NBA what would be your first 3 priorities?

My first priority would be Empowering Young Lawyers: mentorship and giving them focus. Teaching them and showing them that hard work and dedication is the path to success in the Legal Profession. I was a young lawyer once; right from my NYSC days I was thrown into the deep end of litigation without supervision. I was already doing election petition case in my first 2 years of practice and by my 3rd year of practice I had opened my own law firm. It wasn’t exactly the way I wanted it but I didn’t exactly have someone to mentor me. I may have turned out okay but many young lawyers need mentorship and a change of attitude understanding that money comes through hard work and commitment.

I would also look at the possibility of starting a mentorship program from the university so that you can influence how Law Students come out as Lawyers. This is more important than just putting money in their pockets.

My second priority will be to strengthen the NBA as an Institution. This is very important to me. NBA needs to operate like a strong institution despite who the President or Executive members are. Look at the IBA; it has organs with set and established functions that run without regard to who the President is or may be. The President of the IBA and his Executive are there to provide policy direction to the organization without prejudice to the functions of the Executive Management; my priority in this regard will be to put mechanisms in place to revive at least one of the dormant NBA Sections and also ensure that the administrative processes and structures are strengthened in a manner that guarantees accountability and transparency of processes.

I would like to continue with the entrenchment of corporate governance processes within the NBA that would ensure the conduct of the NBA affairs in a transparent and accountable manner. I may not be able to do everything within 2 years but I can certainly lay a good foundation or improve on existing foundations for others to follow by providing or improving on the roadmaps and the policy blueprints that can be followed by successive leaderships.

Seeking office in the NBA is a service and not a means to profit oneself or boost one’s ego.

My third priority would be flowing from the 2 priorities above and that is to look for ways to improve on the income of Nigerian Lawyers

The EBF is calling on its members to ignore the calls for constitutional reform within the NBA, what are your views:

Unfortunately I do not know the reasons why the EBF made this decision but it does not appear right or justified to me. Whatever reasons they have must be properly articulated and submitted to the National Body through the constitution review committee that has been set up for that purpose

We heard that BOSAN is planning an event; can you tell us more

BOSAN has a 3-pronged project on hand: 1. Continuing legal Education; 2. Award of Scholarships and 3. Annual BOSAN Dinner. I am the Vice Chairman of the Dinner sub-committee. It will be the first ever dinner BOSAN would organise. It will be coming up next month and it would, in part, be used to welcome the new SANs. All the about 379 living SANs and their spouses are expected to be there along with the CJN and the VP.

BOSAN has been criticized in the past for not being vocal with regards to what is happening within the Judiciary and the NBA

BOSAN is not a statutory body but we have been quietly persuasive, using our influence within the national governance structure and with the NBA. BOSAN does not call press conferences but, as a Body, we are very active in the background to bring changes within the legal profession; that’s why the public may not know what we do.

On a lighter note; what is it like married to a lawyer?

I have a wonderful relationship with my wife, actually she only studied law after we were married and had our children. She had her first degree in Sociology and was accompanying me to Court before she decided to study law in Buckingham. We also grew up together as best of friends and she manages things well at the office and at home. What really keeps us together is our mutual respect for each other at home and professionally.

Mr. Usoro had much more to say about transforming the corporate governance structure of the NBA and other thorny issues. Watch out for more from Mr. Usoro in our next feature

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