Frontline energy law expert and the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic, Research, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships (ARISP) of Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti, Professor Damilola S. Olawuyi, SAN has called for a rapid reform of legal education in Nigeria in order to develop practice-ready lawyers who can contribute meaningfully to Nigeria’s economic rebirth.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who is also co-Chairman of the Legal Education Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), made these remarks at the Bar Lecture organized as part of the 10th Anniversary Law Week of the Ado Ekiti Branch of the NBA. Themed “The 21st Century Lawyer: Integrating Business Skills with Legal Knowledge”, this year’s conference explores innovative approaches for enhancing the skills of lawyers to thrive in an increasingly globalized marketplace. Moderated by Mr. Obafemi Adewale, SAN, the Bar Lecture featured a keynote speech by Dr. Babatunde Ajibade, SAN who emphasized the need for a 21st Century lawyer to have a sharp understanding of the legal market and to integrate business knowledge and technology into the practice of law. The ensuing panel discussion featured Uruegi Anne Agi of the University of Calabar, and Barrister Inemesit Dike, Convener of the Young Wigs Conference.
In his remarks titled “Thinking Like a Lawyer in the 21st Century,” Professor Olawuyi, SAN noted, “Not so long ago, being asked to ‘think like a lawyer’ meant having advanced oral advocacy and critical thinking skills to spot legal risks and win cases in court. However, in today’s increasingly globalized market place, thinking like a lawyer means blending knowledge of the law with project management, data analytics, technology innovation, and sharp entrepreneurial skills. Knowing the law alone is no longer sufficient to be successful in today’s fast-paced world. Clients have tasted the efficiency and astuteness of consulting firms and now expect the same from lawyers. Unfortunately however, most law faculties continue to train students for analogue and traditional practice of law with little or no knowledge of business intelligence, strategic planning, and use of data analytics tools, such as Ghant and LACI charts. The society is not static, so legal education cannot afford to be static. This is why at ABUAD, we actively infuse all our law courses with technology innovation, business intelligence, and commercial awareness.”
Olawuyi called on universities and the Nigerian Law School to embrace rapid pedagogical change by developing tailored courses that prepare law students for modern realities. He noted that the current situation whereby lawyers are underpaid, undervalued, and underemployed will be a thing of the past if law graduates have market awareness and entrepreneurship skills needed to move beyond traditional practice areas and become leaders in contemporary and economically important areas, such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence law, space and aviation law, healthcare law, food and agricultural law, decarbonization and carbon finance law amongst others.
While discussing some of the ongoing initiatives of the NBA in this area, Olawuyi commended the remarkable foresight and innovation of the President of the NBA, Mr. Olumide Akpata, for establishing the Legal Education Committee. Olawuyi noted that the Committee is working tirelessly to convene a Legal Education Summit later this year to bring together key stakeholders to identify the different challenges and propose recommendations that would enable our legal education to keep pace with ongoing transformations in the global marketplace.