President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Yakubu Maikyau, SAN has declared NBA’s support for the Igba Boyi – Igbo apprenticeship system while assuring that the scheme would be expanded to become a national mentorship policy of the federal government.
Maikyau was a guest at the endowment launch and introduction of Igba Boyi within the legal profession. It was organized by Igbo lawyers under the umbrella of Otu Oka-iwu Abuja.
At the event which had a former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, Senator Ben Obi, Abia State Governor Alex Otti and many others in attendance, one time CEO of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Dr. Sam Amadi, called on the federal government to scrap the Nigerian Law School, saying current reality shows that the institution has outlived its usefulness.
According to Amadi, who is also the director, Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts, the Nigerian Law School was established to provide practical knowledge for young lawyers but no longer serving its purpose.
Describing the Nigerian legal system as one of the most corrupt in the world, Amadi maintained that the law school is a waste of time and resources, adding that it should be scrapped
He said: “So, I think that we need to rethink the whole framework of Nigeria. In my view, the law school is failing. It is no longer serving its purpose. The law school is designed to provide technical practical education. So the question I ask is, what are they providing? My view is, that purpose is best served at a law firm. Many lawyers who go to law school do not practice. Some of them go into journalism, broadcasting, or they go and teach in the university. So I would like us to strengthen the university education for lawyers in order for them to have a broad analytical competency.
“In the United States, when you finish your legal education in the university, you do a quick exam for call as lawyers. Here, we can license our universities to take three to six months special rush course for our law students to qualify to practice. After that, they go to the chambers where they learn real practice. The only way one can get pupillage is in a law firm.
“What is the law school providing for our young graduates? The law school is not rigorous, either academic or practical. So my view is we must focus on universities to give robust academic training. Those who want to practice law should go and do some crash course in the universities to get qualified as lawyers. Then they go to the law firms or corporate places to learn corporate law or legal practice.
“Law as practiced is not thought in the law school. Stop the law school and the waste of resources. Accredit universities to do three to six months, just like they do in America. After graduating as a lawyer, you go and take classes and pass the instructions and get called to the bar. Then all the learning will happen at a law firm where senior lawyers now have obligation to train those young lawyers to understand the practice.”
The human rights lawyer further described as a welcome development the idea of replicating the Igbo apprenticeship model where young lawyers will be able to gain valuable internship experience at reputation law firms.
According to him, the model which he said is now studied at Harvard is a unique way of knowledge transfer and it is needed to save the law profession from moral disaster.
He said: “The idea is that lawyers will seek knowledge from the established ones and also, the established lawyers will also be generous enough to support our young people, not just knowledge but in paying them. So what the Igbo lawyers are trying to do is to provide funding to encourage young people so that with the help of the senior lawyers, the junior ones will acquire not just knowledge, and also virtue.
“Today, the law and judiciary is like the most corrupt part of Nigerian society because everybody wants to make money. So I want to say that if we can restore back pupillage and make it real and provide incentive for young people to go and learn, then we can save the law profession from a moral disaster. This is a totally disastrous state. The law professional is shameful and undignified because of the behavior of lawyers and judges.
Meanwhile, Maikyau, who hailed the lawyers for the initiative described the Igbo apprenticeship scheme as the best way to transfer skills, character and knowledge.
He, however, pleaded that the scheme should not be limited to only lawyers of Igbo extraction.
He said: “If you are the best of lawyers without character, there is no way that intellect is going to transfer or translate into value. So this is a mentorship model. Like I said, it is welcomed into our fold as lawyers, but please let us not limit it to the Igbos. We should extend it to others. We should take it to the north and west because this is something that is going to bring benefit to each and every one of us.
“So as I congratulate you for coming up with this idea, this is something that has actually distinguished the Igbo nation across the world and you can see how effective it has been to transforming the Igbo nation to an enterprising nation. And that’s one thing you can’t take away from the Igbos.
“The Initiative is something that the NBA wholly supports. And I believe that since I am your ambassador, whatever we agree here, give it to me and we’ll pass it across the nation. I would actually be glad to receive the resolution from this meeting as I’ll pass it across to government. We will make a recommendation that this becomes a national mentorship policy of the federal government of Nigeria.
President, Otu Oka-Iwu Abuja, Ejiofor Onwuaso said the endowment fund is a legacy project aimed at replicating the success of Ndigbo in business within the legal profession by institutionalizing mentorship and career development for young lawyers.
He said though the legal profession was originally modelled to imbibe the practice of pupillage, the exponential growth in the number of fresh graduates emerging from the Nigerian Law School yearly has made it impracticable for existing law firms and forbears to absorb such young lawyers in their law firms for purposes of pupillage.
According to him, this lack of capacity and financial resources on the part of the few established law firms to absorb the huge population of young lawyers within the profession often lead to a misplacement of priority, lack of proper mentoring, guidance and missed opportunity on the part of such innocent young wigs who, he said often time derail from the focal point of building a career path along their chosen profession.
On the selection process, he said: “For now, the threshold is young lawyers with one to five years’ experience. These are the people that are most vulnerable and exposed. The most germane thing this does for them is that if you don’t have someone shaping your focus along the path of sustainable development, you may derail having spent years at the university as well as the law school. That age long aspiration might be lost on the altar of lack of adequate mentorship and privileges of having a law firm to attach with.
“We also aim to run a model of minimum of six months. For now, it’s subjects to the availability of funds. That’s why we’re doing the endowment launch to see if we can raise funds to enable us finance this salary. We’re proposing a stipend of at least N50,000 at the moment to see if it can cater for their transportation needs. Also, we are trying to impress it upon the law firms who are our partners as well, that it doesn’t stop, start and end with the stipend we are offering. Of their own volition they may choose to augment but the focal point is to offer a platform to young lawyers to learn and to perfect the scale of legal practice.”(TheNiche).