A law office or law firm in Nigeria is either operated as a sole proprietorship or sole practitionership or partnership or associateship. See: A. Obi Okoye, Law in Practice in Nigeria: (Professional Responsibilities And Lawyering Skills), First edition, Snaap Press Ltd., 2011, at pages 251-254. In either way, a 21st Century Law Firm is a law firm that is technologically advanced and of a standard law office that ensures a more professional standard of legal services delivery to the 21st Century Clients.
As a young lawyer who aims at building a 21st Century Law Firm, there are corresponding challenges. These challenges can be classified as follows: (1) financial capability (2) required professional experiences (3) strategy in competing with co-law firms in the labour market.
1. Challenge of financial capability: This is one of the greatest challenges that a young lawyer faces in the building of a 21st Century Law Firm. Finance is required as a form of capital to establish a 21st Century Law Firm. For instance, building an office space that contains all that is required for a successful 21st Century Law Firm requires a great capital, even if it is a small space. In such law firm, running an up-to-date law library with both physical and on-line research tools is very challenging too. The facilities that must be available in such law firm require a huge capital. For instance, the number of air-conditioners, laptops/desktopb computers, Censored Circuit Television (CC-TV) cameras, water and fireproof file cabinets, the emoluments to be paid to working staff of the law firm and other incentives, among others.
2. Required professional experiences: The legal profession is a profession built on a continuous practice of the law. At one time or the other, Clients approach a lawyer or attorney or solicitor in order to solve one legal issue or the other or for some legal counsel. A 21st Century lawyer or advocate or solicitor is expected to be abreast of the practices in the field of law that he professes or specializes. A wrong advice or counsel given to a client might lead the lawyer into a serious personal liability for unprofessional conducts and or professional incompetency. Therefore, a 21st Century lawyer must be versatile and be abreast with the Rules of his professional ethics. These experiences are very much required for a young lawyer to compete with his co-senior or junior colleagues in the labour market. That is why a young lawyer is expected to undergo pupilage for some months or years in a law firm that engages him in the practice of the law, where he gets to be trained under a senior colleague(s) or a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
3. Strategy in competing with co-law firms in the labour market: The practice of the legal profession as a business oriented profession requires strategy in competing successfully with other co-law firms in the labour market. This strategy is very necessary especially in order to get huge brief or brief with huge financial pay from the clients or big multi-national companies as clients. For instance also, the manner of dressing to appear in public or in meeting with his client, a very good vehicle, neatness, good communications, trust and honesty, use of sophisticated technologies in the office etc. are part of the strategies in winning the mind or heart of a client and to retain his patriotism to continuously engage his legal services.
Nevertheless, the challenges, there are accruing opportunities for a young lawyer who can confront all the above identified challenges by establishing a 21st Century Law Firm. These opportunities can be classified as follows: (1) becoming a notary public. (2) becoming a Senior Advocate of Nigeria at the early years (3) recognition by international business communities. (4) respect among fellow colleagues.
1. Becoming a notary public: One of the very early opportunities that a young lawyer benefits in the legal profession is becoming a notary public at the time of having spent seven (7) years at the bar and having paid his practicing fees for seven (7) years at the same time. This is what the Notaries Public Act, 2004, provides. See: The Notaries Public Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004 (as amended) and the Requirements for application of Notary Public as published on the Supreme Court of Nigeria’s website. Therefore, this kind of early opportunity will add more recognition to a young lawyer who has strived to meet up with the requirements for qualification for becoming a Notary Public. Also, with such status of being a Notary Public, he can notarise public documents and documents of international flavour.
2. Becoming a Senior Advocate of Nigeria at the early years: This is another great opportunity that a young lawyer later attains having spent a period of not less than ten (10) years post call in the legal profession. It is very important to emphasise that becoming a Senior Advocate of Nigeria-herein after referred to as SAN- is a cumulative of the past efforts and the present efforts with future vision. It is a great achievement that a young lawyer is able to attain the status of SAN immediately he is ten (10) years post call at the bar. By being a SAN, he then enjoys all the benefits accorded to a SAN such as sitting in the front seat in Nigerian courts, having his matter called out of turn over other non-SAN who are also appearing in courts, etc. See: Guidelines for the Conferment of the Rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, 2017 and the Legal Practitioners’ Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004 (as amended).
3. Recognition by international business communities: A young lawyer who is able to establish and or build a 21st Century law firm is recognized by international business communities, especially in business transactions. Therefore, he is able to win their patriotism with no stress.
4. Respect among fellow colleagues: The last but not the least of opportunities is respect among other colleagues, which such young lawyer attracts as a result of his achievement in building a 21st Century law firm.
In conclusion, it is my humble submission that though building a 21st Century law firm is very challenging for a young lawyer, it is indeed a great level for a young lawyer to attain.