The indefinite strike action declared by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria- herein after referred to as JUSUN- has lasted for over five weeks and it is still counting! The JUSUN had embarked on the strike action to compel financial autonomy of the judiciary on the Governors of States that have not complied with the said autonomy. Nevertheless, considering the consequential implications of the strike action on litigants and litigation lawyers and the discouraging statements being made by some persons including some senior lawyers who perhaps (with due respect to them) have no career ambition in litigation or who see litigation as a passing-by and not an ambition or ladder to career opportunities in the legal profession and thereby due to their seniority, discouraging the young lawyers with strong passion and or career ambition for litigation to feel that they (the young lawyers) have been on the wrong track by engaging in litigation practices. This paper is of the respectful view that despite the JUSUN’sstrike action, litigation lawyers remain and would always remain sustainers of rule of law. Therefore, this paper is a tribute to litigation practitioners as an encouragement (and especially the young lawyers) for them not to be distracted from their ambition and or focus for a prosperous career opportunity in the legal profession as the sky is just the beginning for them including my humble self.
First and foremost, there is no denial of the fact that the JUSUN’s strike indeed affected me (and some other lawyers in litigation as I am, though I can at this moment speak for myself as a case study) and it is still affecting me both economically and professionally! I really thank God for the financial supports that I got this time from some Senior Advocates of Nigeria herein after referred to as SAN- and other non-SANs as well as from the Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria (MULAN), Abuja branch’s palliatives! I pray to God Almighty to continue to bless them and I am very much appreciative for their magnanimity, understanding and kindness! They have indeed left a legacy in my heart! These are the kind of personalities (whom I would not mention their names due to confidentiality) that the legal profession needs and not some men on the other side who have nothing to contribute in the life of young lawyers (or colleagues who are in need of help) except to criticize and cause them to feel emotionally down rather than being encouraged and assisted or offer good words! There and then, I must mention that there are those senior lawyers that I have met (whom I would not mention their names for confidentiality) who rather than help, would sit me down for unnecessary lectures on how and why litigation is not a better path for me and that I should quit litigation and look somewhere else as if all the while, I have been lost in the legal profession and wasting my time! One really needs to know what his ambitions are in the legal profession and always seek counseling from those that are ‘focus builders’ and not those that are ‘future crashers’ or ‘future destroyers’ as a learned SAN once admonished me sometimes ago! I totally agree with the learned silk, respectfully! I wish these seniors that are like ‘future crashers’or ‘future destroyers’ would change from discouraging words and rather turn to encouraging young lawyers and or colleagues on how they can make the best use of their careers in the litigation or in any field that they aspire rather than a conscious or unconscious discouraging counseling and at the end of the day, they would offer one no help than to let one feels regrets and sorry for oneself! Despite their discouraging counseling to me, the truth is that such discouraging counseling has not affected my ambition in the litigation for a moment! The fact is clear really that about 90% to 95% of my private legal practice for the past eight years (8) years of my being a lawyer has been in litigation practices in almost all courts especially in the FCT-Abuja and few appearances in the Nasarawa State’s jurisdiction with over 60 cases in all up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria (not a pride or show off)! God has really used these seniors whom God has always used to bring me up and shoulder me high in my ambition (whenever I need their help in many ways including financially) else, my careers and private practices would have been shattered and crushed irreparably!
Furthermore, young lawyers and any lawyer that has ambition in the litigation should and must know his status in the legal profession! He or they must know that he or they are the sustainers and or protectors of the rule of law. There would have been no development of the law and the legal profession if not for the litigation lawyers! Litigation from my experiences is not only about adversaries rather, it includes offering legal advice to an aggrieved person who consults one as a legal consultant. Such a piece of advice is a guide in litigation. Litigation is also different from academics in the fact that litigation deals with real life rather than hypothetical or theoretical or imaginary scenarios or cases. Also, no matter the hatred some lawyers or persons have for litigation or with the malicious intent to destroy litigation, they would still not be able to destroy it because, there would have been no law if there is no litigation. Also, no one would rather consider lawyers worthy if not for litigation. Take for instance, criminal law practices (which include: general criminal laws such as laws under the penal code or criminal code of different States and FCT; immigration offences; custom offences; and among other federal and States’ offences; cannot be sustained without litigation lawyers. Also, human rights activism/laws in both local and international would not have been sustained without litigation practices and practitioners. Employment/labour disputes would not have been sustained if not for litigation practices/practitioners. Also, civil litigation including recovery of debts, tenancy matters especially for a stubborn tenant and a tyrant landlord, would not have been effective if not for litigation and litigation practitioners, among other matters!
Furthermore, there are several careers or career opportunities in the legal profession through litigation practices open to a private legal practitioners (in the context of this paper). Where he engages in the private practice, he might take a career of being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria or remain a Non-SAN (and makes a lot of financial opportunities) after some years (not less than ten years of being a lawyer). He might also be in the service of being a legal practitioner as an employee to any law firm or private institution such as company, bank, etc. or be appointed the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation or of a State. He might also be appointed a Judge of a High Court and then (may rise to being appointed as a Justice of the Court of Appeal or a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria). From whichever career he chooses, he finds his success over the years that he remains in the career.
Furthermore, young lawyers should immediately after theircall to bar, consider whether they intend to seek their career opportunity either in politics or private practice or public practice or in the judiciary and then as early as possible, to pursue same because time is of a great essence in litigation. If such young lawyer starts early for instance in the private litigation practices, he should keep developing himself through legal researches and litigation practices and to hope with prayers for a greater height in future years as a notary public, as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria or as a judicial officer or being an appointee of a public office either as Attorney-General of the Federation or of a State, among others. From all these career opportunities, he would find success in his future years.
Also, the Nigerian Bar Association especially at the national level has a lot to contribute in a young lawyer’s career opportunities either by professional trainings or by engaging young lawyers in active participation in the bar affairs as it concerns litigation practices. The Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch (the Unity Bar) which I belong to under the Chairmanship of MrBulusAtsen, for instance, has a lot of packages for young lawyers via discussion series on various areas and opportunities open to lawyers in private practices (the areas of litigation are also taken care of), health insurance scheme, engagement in the bar affairs, among others. I believe that the same thing happens with other branches of the Nigerian Bar Association across the nation but these are not enough. The national body must swing into action by taking up the affairs and welfares of young lawyers (and lawyers in litigation practices as an insurance for the time they are in financial needs) so that their being a lawyer would be a grace and not a disgrace to those lawyers, their family and the general public, especially lawyers in litigation practices. The truth too is that the legal practice or legal profession has lost and is losing legal practitioners in litigation practices to other professions due to the unbearable frustration and financial conditions experienced by majority of the young legal practitioners in litigation, hence, the need for a systemic approach in winning back the heart of those who have departed and to retain the heart of those new wigs for a better future for the legal profession and the progress of Nigeria as a nation. I must also state here that even where a private litigation practitioner is not a SAN, he earns a lot of money from rich clients overtime with patience and perseverance through being a counsel to those clients from which all his sufferings and sorrows would have been lost! It is about litigation the statement that ‘a lawyer could trek out in the morning on foot or on a motor-bite and ride in a big car back home in the afternoon or in the morning due to financial opportunities hidden in the litigation practices’! I must nevertheless add that corruption and dubious acts must be discouraged in the litigation practices by litigation practitioners as these could easily tarnish their image and integrity and thereby destroy their career opportunities in the legal profession, may God forbid!
In conclusion, from whatI have discussed above, it is my humble submission that no matter the impacts of the JUSUN’s strike, the litigation practitioners remain and would always be known as ‘the heroes and sustainers of rule of law and the legal profession’ and I therefore encourage private legal practitioners engaged in litigation practices not to be discouraged in their ambitions in litigation! It might be tough (today) but it willdefinitely be easy very soon, by God’s grace! The sky remains the beginning! This paper is a tribute to private legal practitioner in litigation practices only!
I wish us all private practitioners who engage in litigation practices best of luck and a greater success in our endeavours! Cheers!