On the 15th day of October, 2019, the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch (The Unity Bar) under the Chairmanship of Mr. Folarin Aluko, organized a capacity building training by way of a Discussion Series which marked the 22nd Discussion Series since inception pioneered by the immediate past administration under the Chairmanship of Mr. Ezenwa Anumnu, with the theme ‘LEGAL PRACTICE IN THE DIGITAL ECOSYSTEM’, which was held at the National Human Rights Commission’s Headquarters, Abuja. This Discussion was attended by more than a hundred and fifty (150) participants, with over 90% as lawyers. In attendance were two Honourable Justices of the Federal High Court of Nigeria Coram: Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo and Honorable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo (Justices of the Federal High Court of Nigeria) and the Discussion Series was Chaired by Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo, representing the Honourable, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Honourable Justice John T. Tsoho, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria and in honour of the Programme were legal and non-legal staff of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Abuja.
The Discussion Series had about 3 main speakers on the theme and an interlude section by a Director of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Headquarters, Abuja, among other invited guests. It was however interesting that the Honourable Justices of the Federal High Court were participatory at the event from the beginning till the closing and photographs were taken together with the guests and the NBA Abuja Branch’s Executives as well as the general participants’ photographs. The Discussion Series was a Certificate Programme and ended with enticing refreshment. This paper aims at considering some of the matters arising from the said Discussion Series for lawyers who attended and those who did not attend. This paper is encouraged and provoked by the need to actually put the topics discussed by the speakers who were renowned personnel in the digital/technological industries across to my fellow learned lawyers, especially those who did not attend, for them to taste from its sweetness with no side effect. Nevertheless, this paper focuses more on the take home lessons at the event.
First and foremost, the words ‘ecosystem’ is defined by the Webster online dictionary, to mean‘everything that exists in a particular environment’ and in its full definition, it means ‘the complex of a community of organisms and its environment functioning as an ecological unit’.Therefore, some of the lessons derivable from the theme or the topics by me on my personal assessment are stated in the following paragraphs.
First is that the world has grown up to the digital world so is the medical practice, so is the engineering practice and so shall the legal practice in the very near future to come where even a lawyer’s physical office/chambers would go into extinction and that Artificial Intelligence will even most likely replace lawyers in their practice. This indeed is a signal for lawyers to make sure that they engage in further learning of the digital practice and to also use technology as a tool in their legal practice and in reaching out to clients.
Second, there are various technologies created now which act as robot to even detect lies and to help in forensic analysis (through forensic sciences) of facts in both criminal, civil and recruitment field of discipline. These tools have been used to detect the truth of facts from suspects in the course of investigation and various governments’ law enforcement’s agencies have been trained on their use but lawyers are rarely found to be trained on these tools. Therefore, lawyers need to rise to this demand for digital practice as they operate in the other developed countries.
Third, majority of those personnel who are even in the digital/technology industries are not in connection/contact with lawyers therefore, lawyers need to build a digital means of reaching these technicians in their own world.
Fourth, there are several briefs in the digital world or environments that lawyers are already losing which lawyers need to get aware of on how the digital/online/technological system operates. It is also important for lawyers to know the liabilities of intermediaries in the digital world. The Nigerian Cybercrimes Act of 2015 is of importance in the criminalization of cybercrimes. Many bloggers and other technicians do not really know the legal implications of their actions, hence, at various times, they run into troubles.
Therefore, arising from the Discussion, there is the need for policy making on the digital system by the Nigerian National Assembly or the State Assemblies. I personally would also recommend that the development in the digital environments/system should be brought into the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where necessary, especially in the criminal aspects.
I also wish to encourage and advise lawyers to consider the digital world/environments that are being created daily as a tool for shining their legal practices so that they would not be caught up by ignorance and unpreparedness for the challenges ahead in the digital legal practice.
Finally, I hope that those who participated at the event really gained a lot from the Discussion and that those who did not attend would have also picked from the few lessons highlighted by this paper and that we as lawyers would put all of these lessons learnt into immediate practice with no single hesitation! I also wish to appreciate the brilliant efforts made by the Folarin Aluko’s administration in its continuous building of the capacity of lawyers both young and old members of the bar! I further appreciate the time spent by their Lordships who graced the occasion. Such active roles and participation in my mind shows that the alleged dying cordial relationship between the bar and the bench or the bench and the bar is being rekindled and will grow more in no time! In the overall, all praise belongs to God Almighty for the success of the event and I pray for many more befitting Discussion Series and other interesting programme yet to be organised by the NBA Abuja Branch!