By Ojo Emmanuel Oluwatobi
Undoubtedly, the advent of technology has occasioned a paradigm shift in all spheres of human activities. The law, as a crucial part of the society, is not an exception. The aura of technology has pervaded the atmosphere of law and has brought a great change to how things are being done. However, the most recent technological innovation in law, which is the creation of robotic lawyers who utilize artificial intelligence to function as real lawyers, has sparked off series of series in a lot of quarters. The climax of the disruptions occurred over the week, when the news from various reliable sources has it that, the robotic lawyer that was created, has been sued for practicing law without license. It is noteworthy to understand that technological change is always universal. Either we like it or not, a technological innovation that recorded huge success in a part of the world will undoubtedly be adopted in the other countries. This is why a lot of Nigerian have been flummoxed, bothered, and perturbed as to whether, the same technological innovation, which is a robotic lawyer can effectively practice law in the Nigerian landscape. It is against this background, that this article seeks to expound on whether or not a robotic lawyer is licensed to practice law in Nigeria.
To resolve this sole issue exhaustively and ingeniously, it is crucial to expound on the definition of a legal practitioner in the Nigerian legal terrain. The definition of who a legal practitioner is, has been amplified with admirable lucidity in the Legal Practitioners Act.
Section 2(1) of the Legal Practitioners Act, which is one of the statute that superintends over the affairs of legal practitioners in Nigeria states that;
“Subject to the provisions of this Act, a person shall be entitled to practice as a barrister and solicitor if, and only if, his name is on the roll.”
Based on the above cited provision, it is therefore clear, that a legal practitioner in the Nigerian terrain, is a person whose name has been enrolled on the roll; which is the Supreme Court roll. In other words, one can only legally and validly be licensed to practice law in Nigeria if he or she is called to the Nigerian bar, having satisfied the laid down requirements. The laid down requirements to be met before one can be called to the Nigerian bar, as stated by in Section 4(1) of the Legal Practitioners Act, are;
- Such individual must be a citizen of Nigeria.
- He or she must product a qualifying certificate to the benchers
- He or she must possess good character.
It is after these requirements have been met that a person can be called to the Nigerian bar.
It is the contention of this writer that, it is difficult, if not impossible for a robotic lawyer to satisfy these stringent requirements. It naturally follows that, based on the inability of a robotic lawyer to satisfy these criteria, this writer submits accordingly, that robotic lawyers cannot validly be issued the license to practice law in the Nigerian legal landscape,
We must however, note that there are some circumstances, that can transpire, which will confer the robots with the legal wherewithal to practice. Robotic lawyers can only practice law in Nigeria, if the legislators sit down to consider a re-calibration of our laws to suit the prevailing technological realities i.e. amendment of the laws guiding legal practice to accommodate the peculiarities of the robotic lawyers, so that they can also be able to legally satisfy the requirements of being a legal practitioner.
Conclusively, the occupation of a legal practitioner is not a dishonorable one, neither is it one, in which every Tom, Dick, and Harry can veer into. The duty imposed on legal practitioners is an enormous one. The court, in the case of ANOZIA v. AG LAGOS STATE (2010) LPELR-CA/L/140/08 whilst examining the duties of legal practitioners held that;
“It is trite, that a legal practitioner has an onerous duty to uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, thus shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a member of the honorable and highly prestigious legal profession”.
Considering this fact, it is therefore apposite that the procedure through which one can become a legal practitioner should be stringent, and not only be stringent, but also meticulously satisfied and followed, before an individual can attain the status of a legal practitioner. This writer submits that it’s pertinent for robotic lawyers, if at all they will soon be legally permitted, to be called to bar, to be trained rigorously and arduously, and schooled extensively on the nitty-gritty of being a legal practitioner, so that they will not go ahead and desecrate the honorable profession.
ABOUT THE WRITER;
Ojo Emmanuel Oluwatobi is a law student in the Faculty of Law, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna state. He is a dynamic writer, brilliant researcher, and a passionate lover of knowledge. He can be reached via 08145929919, or, email@example.com.
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