Law

‘Why pupilage is panacea for successful law practice’

Tobi Michael Babalola attended Lagos State University (LASU) where he obtained his LL.B. Babalola was called to Bar in 2017. He shares his foray into the law profession with JOHN CHIKEZIE

 

Background

 

My name is Tobi Michael Babalola and I’m an indigene of Osun, Ilesa-west local government area. I was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2017.

 

My areas of legal practice include Finance law, Corporate law and Commercial law. Asides my professional qualification as a lawyer, I’m an entrepreneur and I also operate a blog at www.orangetell.org with the sole aim of educatingpeoplegloballyontheblog’sfocusareas.

 

I attended Doregos Private Academy as the best graduating student, Arts class.

 

Thereafter I proceeded to study law at the Lagos State University (LASU) where I served as the Public Relations Officer of the Faculty of law; Vice president Association of Campus Journalist (LASU Chapter); PrincipalPartnerEquitylawfirm(Student’s chambers); AcademicSecretaryof theChristian Law Students Fellowship of Nigeria.

 

I also honed my skills in advocacy by participating and representing LASU at moot competitions at the National and International level and was presented with an Award of Debater of the year in 2013.

 

I graduated with a Second class Upper Division and proceeded to the Nigerian Law School graduating with a Second class Upper Division. I am currently enrolled at the Covenant Capital Business School Entrepreneurial Programme.

 

Career

My interest in governance and politics as well as my passion for protecting people’s rights which I do through advisory & drafting watertight contracts for clients and volunteering at NGO’s focused on rights protection, influenced my decision to study law.

 

Secondary to this, was sighting my grandmother’s award for her thirty years of meritorious service in the Nigerian  judiciary and learning from her experience through stories she told to me.

 

While at the university, I interned at a research institute focused on environmental law for four years, I also served as a research assistant with Professor Olusegun Yerokun and upon graduating from the university prior to joining the Nigerian Law School, I interned at a law firm, majored in Dispute Resolution and Commercial Law practice for seven months.

 

These and other reasons informed my focus areas of law practice.

 

Pupilage

 

My work experience has been a mix of various aspects of the legal profession post-qualification as a lawyer. I cut my legal teeth at a Dispute Resolution and Commercial Law practice firm, where I was engaged in mediation and litigation at the Magistrate’s courts, High Courts, Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal on various Nigerian law subjects including torts, commercial litigation, criminal law amongst others.

 

I also worked as an In-house counsel rendering company secretarial and regulatory compliance services and I currently work as a transactional counsel on project finance, capital market deals amongst others.

 

 

Justice system and the rule of law Speaking with respect to the jurisdiction where I practice in Lagos Nigeria, I think the popular saying that “the judiciary is the last hope of the common man” is obtainable to an extent here.

 

The judges are always working towards a better and efficient administration of the judicial system. We can see that play out with the Lagos State High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2019, a revision of the 2012 civil procedure rules.

 

Recently, in a suit filed by the Attorney-General of Lagos State in suit number SC/CV/260/2020 to determine the legal validity of virtual court proceedings in the quick administration of justice amidst the current pandemic; the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, affirmed the legal validity of virtual court proceedings, which is evidence to show that the judiciary is committed to efficient administration of justice in Nigeria.

 

In addition, our labour law jurisprudence is being improved upon with the landmark decisions by the National Industrial Court. However, more changes are required for better and sustainable justice delivery systems in Nigeria which include avoiding as much as possible the delivery of different judgments on the same principle of law and similar facts; Promoting efficiency by fully automating the judicial process across the judicial divisions to ensure that Justice should not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done; Advancing the “Rule of law” and the practice of mutual respect among lawyers, between the bar and the bench, between lawyers and law enforcement agencies, for the growth of Nigeria and the development of our jurisprudence and achieving top notch law practice.

 

Novel virtual proceedings

 

Having virtual courts became necessary in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and some countries around the world and a few in Africa haveembracedthisinnovation. Despite its shortcomings, it has become necessary to embrace virtualcourts forquickerdispensationof justice.

 

 

Some of its shortcomings include having the right technological infrastructure to run virtual proceedings, the gradual yet slow adaptability of lawyers to the existing technology, no framework for data protection and external interference from hackers. However, these deficiencies can be addressed with the right technological solutions in place.

 

Challenges of young lawyers

 

The major challenges of young lawyers in Nigeria include- poor remuneration for those in law firm employment, however, this does not apply to a few law firms in Nigeria. The aftermath of this has led to about 60% of young lawyers being unemployed and an increase in sole proprietorship law firms in Nigeria. Lack of access to funding which is more of a challenge in the country and it has had an indirect negative effect on young lawyers.

 

Also, limited training and not all law firms in Nigeria are conversant with happenings in the global market, hence there’s a limit to the level of training offered to young lawyers in their first and second years of law practice. Absence of a standard uniform pricing model for charging professional fees:

 

A brief study of history has revealed that law practice in Nigeria has moved from being a sellermarket when lawyers were regarded as gods- -knowledgeable and a necessity and able to dictatetheir feesreasonablytoabuyer-market where clients have options and easy access to a pool of lawyers.

 

In a buyer-market, a client dictates the fees by moving to the next available lawyerwho is readyto offerthe same legal service(s) for a lesser fee in a bid to survive. Nigeria practices the hybrid system–buyer and sellers markets and in recent times these issues are being addressed by privately managed entities like Strictly Law Business (SLB) but will take a while to change the narrative and proffer workable solutions.

Ambition

To be one of the best and top ranking lawyers globally in my chosen field of law practice.

 

 

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