Yusufu Shehu Usman
The population of lawyers in Nigeria is soaring with every year that passes. The Nigerian Law School churns out an average of five thousand young lawyers per annum into the legal profession.
The recent developments in the field of practice, makes it absolutely necessary to classify Nigerian lawyers according to their quality and worth.
A good lawyer knows the law and applies it diligently. A smart lawyer looks for deficiencies in the law and capitalises on them to win a case. The best lawyer approaches the law with the desire to do justice by pleading his client’s case with due diligence but within the confines of the law and the ethical values of the legal profession.
The worst lawyer is the one who has no regards for ethics and industry but depends on crooked tactics, manipulations and unethical conduct to win his case at all cost and by all means necessary, fair or foul. He has no standards and has no respect for the standards laid down by profession
The rules of professional ethics require every lawyer to consider himself first and foremost as an officer of the court or as a minister in the temple of justice.
The older generation of lawyers who made the legal profession proud and attracted public respect and reverence to the noble profession were not smart but highly industrious practitioners of the law
The next generation that followed them departed from the noble path of the old and have turned the Bar and the practice of law into into a smart business with less of ethics and a high dose of manipulation of the law to gain undue and undeserved advantage over their adversaries.
To them, the end justifies the means.
The third generation of lawyers, which represents our present generation is largely made up of practitioners who lack industry and dedication to ethics Their main focus is to be famous and attract attention for recognition and to make names as Senior Advocates even if they are not senior or erudite enough to be so rewarded.
They cut corners, curry favours and engage in all kinds of unethical conduct to move to the higher strata of the profession. They also tend to believe that the end justifies the means and you should get to the top no matter by what means.
Over the years, the legal profession is decreasing in discipline, the traditional respect for seniority and the reverence for the Bench which were the hallmarks of the noble profession of the law.
There is the urgent need for the Bar to reform the practice of the law in Nigeria, more especially in the areas of discipline, respect for the Bench and for colleagues and enforcement of ethical values and etiquettes for which the profession has been known since inception.
The present state of affairs and the desperation exhibited by the conduct of some of our colleagues, is dragging the reputation of the profession to the mud and eroding the trust and confidence of the members of the public in the practice of the law and their respect for lawyers.
We need to institute sweeping reforms and ethical revolution in the profession to restore the waining regimes of honour, integrity, respect, industry and sustainable discipline in the practice of the law.
Finally there is need for deep introspection by every lawyer to answer the pertinent question: “What kind of a lawyer am I?”