A legal practitioner ,Valentino Buoro, has given an expository review of the much expected High Court of Lagos State (CIVIL PROCEDURE) Rules, 2019, launched on Monday by the Lagos State Chief Judge, Hon Justice Opeyemi Oke at the Conference Room of the High Court of Lagos State in Ikeja.

Mr. Buoro, in his review highlighted some of the reforms of the amended Rules, and why lawyers must get themselves familiarized with its provision for a smooth and successful practice in Nigeria’s busiest jurisdiction, Lagos State. According to him, though not expressly stated, the new Rules in some manner provides for mandatory alternative dispute resolution processes for all actions to be instituted at the Lagos High Courts. He also added that the new Rules is accompanied by two additional booklets.

“The new Rules contain some fundamental reforms which obviously demand that legal practitioners acquire skills in alternative dispute resolution, if they are to remain relevant to the needs of their clients. Though not expressly stated, the new Rules in some manner provides for mandatory alternative dispute resolution processes for all actions to be instituted at the Lagos High Courts.

“To underscore this new face of legal practice within the jurisdiction, the 2019 Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) is accompanied by two additional booklets entitled ‘Expeditious Disposal of Civil Cases: Practice Direction No1 of 2019’ and ‘Expeditious Disposal of Civil Cases: Practice Direction No 2 of 2019’”, the review reads.

Mr. Buoro also spoke on the Practice Direction No 2 which deals on PRE-ACTION PROTOCOL. According to him, in its Preamble, the 32-page Practice Direction No 2 states expressly that Pre-Action Protocols explain the conduct and sets out the steps required of parties prior to the commencement of proceedings to which the High Court of Lagos State (Civil Procedure) Rules apply, adding that the practice direction provides that prior to the commencement of proceedings, the court will expect parties to have engaged in pre-trial correspondence sufficient to understand each other’s position, try to settle issues or consider a form of alternative dispute resolution to assist with the settlement.

Speaking further, he added that the Claimant is expected to forward to the respondent a memorandum of claim setting out concise details of his claims and the basis upon which the claim is made, adding that he is to itemize the reliefs and remedies sought as well as include a proposal for the settlement of the dispute through ADR mechanisms such as negotiation, mediation, arbitration or Mediation-Arbitration (Med-Arb)

He also added that there are express sanctions for litigants who do not comply with some of the provisions in the protocol, stressing that there really seem to be no hiding place for lawyers who run away from ADR.

“There are express sanctions for litigants who have: not complied with provisions of the protocol; not acted within the time limit set out in a relevant protocol or unreasonably refused to use a form of ADR or failed to respond at all to an invitation to do so. Where the pre-action protocol has not been complied with by the Claimant, originating processes with supporting documents shall not be accepted for filing at the registry. That means a lawsuit cannot be commenced.

“On the other hand, where a Respondent fail to file a response as required by the protocol or unreasonably refuses an invitation to ADR, the Claimant may proceed to litigation by filing the required processes and accompanying same with a spiral bound pre-action protocol bundle which contains all pre-action correspondence and obtain judgement against the respondent etc. All of these and more interesting details if you obtain a copy of the CPR, means there is no more hiding away from ADR if you must practice as a litigation lawyer in Lagos State,” he added.

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