Dayo Akindipe
  • Introduction

The main objective of this article is to do a comparative analysis and pointing out the salient distinctions of the guidelines on the conferment of the award of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria from 2011 to 2016.

This article shall examine each Guideline that has been passed by the three Chief Justices of Nigeria and the improvements that has been in the recent Guidelines and will further offer recommendations.

The palpable variances are as follows:

  1. Primary Consultation

Section 3 of the 2011 Guidelines[1] made provisions for the primary mode of consultation conducted by the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee to be by way of confidential reference from the Judges of superior courts, the Nigerian Bar Association and other Practitioners.

However, section 3 of the 2013 and the 2016 Guidelines[2] respectively did not expressly state whether confidential references will be received from the Nigerian Bar Association.

On the balance, all the three Guidelines[3] however provides in section 12 that the local branch of the Nigerian Bar Association of the candidate will be required to comment confidentially on the integrity, competence and reputation of the candidate.

  1. Oral Interview

Section 5(3) of the 2013 and 2016 Guidelines[4] states the criteria for the Oral Interview and listed demonstration of high level of understanding of cultural and social diversity characteristics of the Nigerian Society, amongst others, will be considered at this stage.

However, section 5 of the 2011 Guidelines did not provide any reference on any section in respect to the Oral Interview.

  1. Method of Appointment

Section 9(1) of the 2011 Guidelines[5] states that call for Applications will be made not later than 31st of January of each year.

However, section 9(1) of the 2013 and 2016 Guidelines[6] stipulates that applications will be made not later than 7th of January of each year.

  1. Processing Fees

Section 9(3) of the 2011 Guidelines made provisions for a non refundable processing fee in the sum of N200, 000.00.

However, section 9(3) of the 2013 and 2016 Guidelines[7] respectively made provisions for non-refundable processing fees in the sum of N300, 000.00 and N400, 000.00 respectively.

  1. Procedure after the First and Second Filters

Section 12 of the 2011 and 2013 Guidelines[8] respectively did not expressly state the time within which a petition may be brought against any applicant after the publication of the shortlisted candidates.

However, section 12(2) the 2016 Guidelines states that the complaint/petition must be filed within eighteen days after the publication of the shortlisted candidates and such complaints must be supported by documents/ affidavits deposed before a court of record in Nigeria.

  1. Particulars of Contested Cases

The provision of section 14 of the 2011 and 2013 Guidelines in this area are almost the same.

Section 14 of the 2011 and 2013 Guidelines[9] stipulates (a) 8 Judgments of the High Court (b) 6 Judgments of the Court of Appeal and 3 Judgment of the Supreme Court.

However, section  14 (5) (a) of the 2013 Guidelines added a condition to the cases at the High Court and further provides that the applicant will forward certified true copies of the complete record of trial proceedings in at least five contested cases from filing stage to Judgment.

Section 14 (5) (a) of the 2016 Guidelines indicate significant changes in this area and stipulates that the applicant shall provide 20 Judgments at the High court and also provide certified true copies of complete record of trial proceedings in at least 12 contested cases from trial stage to Judgments, b) 4 Judgments of the Court of Appeal c) 3 Judgments of the Supreme court.

Additionally, section 14 of the 2011 and 2013[10] Guidelines provides that where the applicant himself has conducted cases from the High Court to the Supreme Court provided that where applicants submits cases in which he has appeared only at the supreme court he will be required to submit 6 Judgments of the Supreme Courts to qualify while section 14 of the 2016 guidelines requires the applicant to submit 2 Judgments of the supreme court to qualify.

Lastly in this area, documents such as letters of instructions by clients and confirmation letter by the Judge to confirm that the applicant as counsel conducted the case from trial stage to Judgment are expressly stated as documents required  under the section 14(5)(a) of the 2016 Guidelines[11].

  1. Interview of Candidates

The provisions of section 16(2) 2011 and 2013 Guidelines[12] provisions are the same in this area. However, under section 16(2) (a)(b)(c)(f) of the 2016 Guidelines[13], there are some changes in the weighted criteria of the evaluation of the candidate’s competence.

These areas include:  a) Integrity 20% as opposed to 25% under section 16 (2)(a) of the 2011 and 2013 Guidelines respectively.

  1. b) Under section 16(2) (b) of the 2016 Guidelines, the opinion of Judges and strength of reference received is 20%. Under section 16(2) (b) of the 2011 and 2013 Guidelines, it’s 10% for the Opinion of Judges and the strength of reference received is 15%.
  2. c) Under section 16(2) (c) of the 2016 Guidelines, candidate’s general knowledge of Law is 25%. However, it’s 15% under section (16) (2) (c) of the 2011 and 2013 Guidelines respectively.
  3. d) Under the section 16(2) (f) of the 2016 Guidelines, the Quality of Law Office/Library is 15%. However, it’s 10% respectively under section 16(2) (g) of 2011 and 2013 Guidelines.

Palpably, the general knowledge of Law and the qualities of Law Office/Library has the highest weighted criteria under the current Guidelines vis a vis the previous Guidelines.

  1. Eligibility

Section 18 of the  2011 Guidelines stipulate that candidate must be in active current legal practice at least  20 years immediately preceding the date of application. However, the section 18 of the 2013 and 2016 Guidelines states 10 years.

  1. Probono Legal Services

All the Guidelines[14] mentioned the provision of probono legal services to indigent clients as part of the criteria to evaluate the candidate’s competence.

However, only section 19 (7) (c) of 2013 and 2016 Guidelines specified the number of such services to be at least three (3) and a certificate of such service must be presented along with his application form.

  1. Award to Academics

Section 21 (2) of the 2011 and 2013 Guidelines[15] provides that an applicant under these Guidelines shall provide 20 copies of his published works. However, section 21 (2) of the 2016 Guidelines provides 13 copies of applicant’s published works.

In addition, the composition of the members of the academic sub-committee under section 21(3) the 2011 and 21(4) 2013 Guidelines comprises of same members except the removal of a member of the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee under the 2013 Guidelines.[16]

However, under section 21(5) (a)(b)(c) the 2016 Guidelines, three Professors from renowned Nigerian Universities and two members of the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee, one must whom must be academic are notable additions to the  members of the academic sub- committee.

In addition, the section 21 (4) of the 2016 Guidelines further provides that applicants in the academic category must provide evidence of supervision of students and references from at least three professors of Law (not less than ten years as a Professor and must be resident in Nigeria).

Lastly, a section on Academic pre-qualification filter was included in the 2016 Guidelines.[17]

  1. Withdrawal of the rank of Senior Advocate

Section 22 of the 2011 Guidelines was silent on whether the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee can suspend any Legal Practitioner from the use of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria pending the determination of any disciplinary action against such a Legal Practitioner.

However, section 22 (2) of the 2013 and section 24 (2) 2016 Guidelines provides respectively that the Legal Practitioners’ Privileges Committee may suspend pending the determination of any disciplinary action against such a Legal Practitioner.

Finally, section 24(3) of the 2016 Guidelines further provides that the rules and principles of fair hearing shall be applied as regards the discipline of any Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

Conclusion

From the above comparative analysis of the 2011, 2013 and 2016 Guidelines, it’s highly credible that the next Guidelines (if planned) on the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, notable changes will be made in areas such as processing fees, particulars of contested cases, number of probono legal services to indigents, composition of the academic sub-committee and number of published works of candidate under the academic category. These are areas of consistent variance from the 2011, 2013 and 2016 Guidelines as pointed out in this article.

Written By:

Dayo Akindipe, LLM (UK)

Administrator, Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

[1] Section 3 of the Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria 2011, 4th Edition, published by Law lords Publications.

[2] Section 3 of the Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria 2013 and 2016.

[3] See section 12 of the 2011, 2013 and 2016 Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

[4] Section 5(3) of the Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates 2013 and 2016.

[5] See section 9 (1)of the 2011 Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

[6] See section 9(1) of the 2013 and 2016 for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

[7] Please see section 9(3) of the 2013 and 2016 Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

[8] Section 12 of the 2011 and 2013 Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

[9] See section 14 (5)(a)(b)(c) of the 2013 Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria. Also, see section 14 (4) (a)(b)(c) of the 2011 Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

[10] ibid

[11] See section 14(5) (a) of the 2016 Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

[12] See section 16(2) of the 2011 and 2013 Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

[13] See section 16(2) (a)(b)(c)(f) of the 2016 Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

[14] See section 19(7)  of the Guidelines for the conferment of the award of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria, 2011, 2013 and 2016.

[15] See section 21(3)(a)(b)(c) of the 2011 Guidelines and Section 21(4)(a)(b)(c) of the 2013 Guidelines for the conferment of the rank of Senior Advocates of Nigeria respectively.

[16] See section 21(4)(a)(b)(c) of the Guidelines for the conferment of Senior Advocates of Nigeria 2013

[17] See section 22 of the Guidelines for the conferment of Senior Advocates of Nigeria 2016

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