Introduction I will like to start this discourse by asking who among my soon-to-be learned friends if any of them have read ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by William Shakespeare. For those of us who might not have read, here is a summary. A young Venetian, Bassanio needs a loan of three thousand ducats so that he can woo Portia, a wealthy Venetian heiress. He approaches his friend Antonio, a merchant. Antonio is short of money because all his wealth is invested in his fleet, which is currently at sea. He goes to a Jewish money lender,Shylock, who hates Antonio because of Antonio’s anti-semitic behaviour towards him. Shylock nevertheless agrees to make the short-term loan, but in a moment of dark humour, he makes a condition – the loan must be repaid in three months or Shylock will exact a pound of flesh from Antonio. Antonio agrees, confident that his ships will return in time because of the terms of Portia’s father’s will, all suitors must choose from among three caskets, one of which contains a portrait of her. If he chooses that he may marry Portia, but if doesn’t he must vow never to marry or court another woman. The Princes of Morocco and Aragon fail the test and are rejected. As Bassanio prepares to travel to Belmont for the test, his friend Lorenzo elopes with Shylock’s daughter, Jessica. Bassanio chooses the lead casket, which contains her picture and Portia happily agrees to marry him immediately. Meanwhile, two of Antonio’s ships have been wrecked and Antonio’s creditors are pressurising him for repayment. Word comes to Bassanio about Antonio’s predicament, and he hurries back to Venice, leaving Portia behind. Portia follows him, accompanied by her maid, Nerissa. They disguised as a male lawyer and his clerk. When Bassanio arrives the date for the repayment to Shylock has passed and Shylock is demanding his pound of flesh. Even when Bassanio offers much more than the amount in repayment, Shylock, now infuriated by the loss of his daughter, is intent on seeking revenge on the Christians. The Duke refuses to intervene. Portia arrives in her disguise to defend Antonio. Given the authority of judgment by the Duke, Portia decides that Shylock can have the pound of flesh as long as he doesn’t draw blood as it is against the law to shed a Christian’s blood. Since it is obvious that to draw a pound of flesh would kill Antonio, Shylock is denied his suit. Moreover, for conspiring to murder a Venetian citizen, Portia orders that he should forfeit all his wealth. Half is to go to Venice, and half to Antonio. Antonio gives his half back to Shylock on the condition that Shylock bequeathe it to his disinherited daughter, Jessica. Shylock must also convert to Christianity. A broken Shylock accepts. News that Antonio’s remaining ships have returned safely with the exception of Shylock, all celebrate a happy ending to the affair. I will come to the relevance of the play before the end of this discourse. Suffice to say that in all of what I have said about the play, if you forget anything, do not forget “…a pound of flesh, a pound of flesh, a pound of flesh. Oh yes, a pound of flesh. But no drop of blood!” It is indeed a privilege for me to be invited to stand before you to talk about The Law: Before, Now and In the Future. It is no doubt a topic that we can discuss from now till tomorrow and not conclude, for the perspectives are as wide as they are diverse. However, because of time I will endeavor to limit the horizon of the discourse to Nigeria. I will also broadly divide the three periods into the following years (Before -1862 to 1975; Now-1975 to December 8, 2017 and the Future – December 9, 2017 and Beyond). The division is not iron cast. And some of the issues raised stretch slightly from one period to another. Definition What is Law? I guess we all know what law is? A simple definition of law is as follows – the principles and regulations established in a community by some authority in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decisions. The Interpretation Act defines law and says it “means any law enacted or having effect as if enacted by the legislature of a state and includes any instrument having the force of law which is made under a law.” The history and evolution of Nigerian Law cannot be divorced from the story of the country’s nationhood. The colonial masters introduced English Law into the Colony of Lagos upon its creation in 1862. The Supreme Court ordinance of 1876 established a Supreme Court for the Colony of Lagos and the court applied the common law of England, the doctrines of equity and statutes of general application in force in England. The Supreme Court also applied local laws and customs which were not repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience, and not incompatible with law. Appeals from the courts of each of the British settlements went to the West African Court of Appeal. Further appeal went to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In 1900, the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria was formed with its own Supreme Court, which exercised jurisdiction throughout the Southern Protectorate. The Northern Protectorate was established by the Northern Nigerian Order in Council 1899 and a Supreme Court was established for the Northern Protectorate in 1900 to exercise both original and appellate jurisdictional powers in both civil and criminal matters. Amalgamation of the two Protectorates took place on January 1, 1914 to form the territory known as Nigeria. The Supreme Court Ordinance of 1914 established the Supreme Court for the country whilst the Provincial Court Ordinance established the Provincial Courts. The decisions of the Provincial Courts went to the Supreme Court on appeal. Nigeria became Federal State in 1954 when the Constitution of that year was enacted, which Constitution established three regions- Northern, Eastern and Western Region. Upon attainment of independence, the court system remained the same but the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council remained the highest court in Nigeria. On October 1, 1963, Nigeria became a republican state and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ceased to be the highest court in Nigeria. The Federal Supreme Court was changed to the Supreme Court of Nigeria and became the highest court in the land. After the success of the military coup of 1966, the Constitution (Suspension and Modification) (No. 5) Decree 1966 established the Advisory Judicial Committee composed of the heads of the various courts in the regions. The Federal Revenue Court was established for the Federation in 1973 by the Federal Revenue Court Decree. The Federal Revenue Court ( which is the present day Federal High Court) had both civil and criminal jurisdictions on matter such as copyright, admiralty and matters relating to the revenue of the country. The Federal Court of Appeal was established in 1976. The Trade Disputes Act of 1976 established the National Industrial Court to deal with labour disputes. The above is the genesis of the reception of English law into Nigeria. Prior to that time however, there already existed among various tribes of what was to later become known as Nigeria, systems of government and laws in the forms of customs and religious traditions, including Islamic law in Northern Nigeria. In the words of A. E. W. Park. “…before 1862 there had been in existence in the territory a full system of local customary law. Any attempt to abolish that law would have been both futile and contrary to the well established British policy of preserving as far as was compatible with imperial rule the institutions of newly dependent territories. Consequently the continued administration of customary law was both permitted and encouraged… the sources of law established for the colony so long ago set a pattern for the whole of Nigeria which has remained basically unchanged ever since.” Nigerian legislations are contained in statutes of the legislative bodies of Nigeria, while case law is contained in judicial decisions by the superior courts of record. Judicial decisions over time form precedents. In other words, before law was given to us by the Colonialists, the Court System was uncomplicated and simple. It was essentially customary. The practice of it was not as profession. Now it is a profession. It is now largely complicated and diverse. The future promises to be even more so. The evolution of law in Nigeria is perhaps not the major interest of our discourse. It would seem to me that what is and should be of major concern to us, as I leave the erudite Professors, Associate Professors, senior lecturers and lecturers of this great institution to continue to impact knowledge on that from within, is the actual practice of the law out there by the legal practitioner, post-Nigerian Law School, that is. What was it, what is it and what it is likely to be in the future? Who is a legal practitioner? By Section 24 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L11 2004, legal practitioner is defined as “a person entitled in accordance with the provisions of this Act to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor either generally or for the purpose of any particular office or proceedings” while Section 2(1) of the Act states thus: “subject to the provisions of the Act, a person shall be entitled to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor if and only if his name is on the roll.” Training Let us start with training. In the past all lawyers and judges were trained abroad. Nigeria’s first university did not even start with a Faculty of Law. Until the early sixties, practically all Nigerian lawyers and Judges weretrained abroad and admitted to the Inns of Court in England before they returned to Nigeria. It was within that period, which I have classified as past that the situation changed with the establishment of the first generation universities in Nigeria when training of lawyers began in Nigeria following the creation of the Nigerian Law School. In the present training is predominantly in Nigeria, even though a good number of our students still go abroad to study Law before coming to Nigeria to attend the Nigerian Law School. For the future, there is already a suggestion that the Nigerian Law School be abolished and that its academic programmes be taken by various accredited universities while the Council of Legal Education should continue to conduct the examinations and the Body of Benchers continue to supervise compliance with other necessary conditions for the admission of new wigs. Globalization, ICT and the march of science and technology is another phenomenon which will definitely impact on the new wigs are being trained in the future. Invariably, training of lawyers in the future, in terms of physical contacts between the Tutors and the Students and attendance at lectures will be seriously challenged in the future. The power of the internet, teleconferencing, video conferencing, and the like, is bound to make inroads into the methodology of the training of lawyers. Law offices and practice In the past, law firms were few and dominated by foreign law firms that opened in Nigeria, remnants of (or successors of) which can still be found in one or two big cities in Nigeria. The likes of Irving & Bonnar, founded by Britons in 1917 (and which still exists as Bentley Edu & Co) and Burke & Co., attest to this. As more and more Nigerians went to England to study law and returned to Nigeria, partnerships between Nigerians and between foreigners and Nigerians began to spring up. The first indigenous partnership came into being in the country in 1948 when three friends, Chiefs Bode Thomas, Rotimi Williams and Remi Fani-Kayode formed “Thomas, Williams and Kayode & Co.” There was also “Michael, Chris and Samuel” which was formed by Chief Chris Ogunbanjo, Michael Odesanya and Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola in 1950, to mention just these two. But no sooner had those partnership began to take root than most of them began to split and became one – Principal Law Firms. And so, the past (remember the categories of past, present and future for the purpose of this discourse) began with predominately foreign law firms, developed into significant partnerships and ended with predominantly one-principal law firms. At present, the legal practice has remained predominantly one-Principal Law Firms. This was boosted by the decision which overruled the requirement of having qualified for certain number of years before a legal practitioner could begin to appear at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. However, in the present there has been a return to partnerships in law practice. So many partnership have been formed and the number is increasing yearly. This has been driven by globalization and the consequential need for synergy and specialization. For those who would like to be big players in the practice of law in the future, the only way to go is partnership. Partnership enables practitioners to specialize in various areas of their passions and competencies. Partnerships make it easy for law firms to be relevant and more proficient in wider areas of legal practice. For those who will beeligible for the cross-border, big ticket briefs of the future, partnership is the way to go. This issue inextricably leads to the next, which is – Specialization In the past, scope of practice was very limited in line, of course, with the size and diversity of the economy. And so, virtually every legal practitioner laid claim to being able to practice in virtually all areas of law. You only found lawyers rejecting certain briefs, not because they considered that they were not good in a particular area, but usually due to The present started initially on the same note, but in the last 20 years legal practitioners especially in big cities and commercial centres are increasingly being forced to specialize. We now have legal practitioners and law firms that are into Admiralty Practice, Communication Law, Oil and Gas Practice, Defence of Accused Persons, Constitutional and Election Litigation Matters, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Specialists, Insolvency Practitioners, to mention but a few. It is now becoming more and more predictable to know the pool of lawyers andlaw firms out of which those to handle certain litigations and consummatecertain transactions will be chosen. And legal practitioners are alreadypositioning themselves and are taking advantage. It is, however, a development that has crept into our legal system almost unnoticed by majority of Nigerian legal practitioners. It is the way to go in the future. Those who do ‘jack of all trade’ as it were within the legal profession would soon realize that, they are getting only the ‘crumbs’. Only tested and trusted specialists would win the big ticket briefs of thefuture. • Adesokan, LLM, FCIArb (UK), SAN]]>

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