History of the Legal Profession in Nigeria

History of the Legal Profession in Nigeria

This article will be discussing the History of the Legal Profession in Nigeria. We shall also briefly talk about what to expect from this topic in case you are a Law School Student preparing to write his/her Bar finals. This is because the History of the Legal Profession in Nigeria is part of the curriculum in Law School Work.

The article will also focus on the qualifications to practice Law in Nigeria and the Exemptions available.

Furthermore, if you are not a Law Student, this article will give you a good context of how the law was practiced in Nigeria before this modern era.

See Also: Legal Ways to Make Money in Nigeria as a Young Lawyer

Introduction to the History of Legal Profession in Nigeria

History of the Legal Profession in Nigeria

Before the establishment of the Nigerian Law School in the year1962, training of lawyers was done mainly in the United Kingdom. The history of Nigerian Law School is divided into 3 stages or eras as follows:

1. The Period of 1876 – 1914

During this period, those called to the Irish Bar and English Bar are equally qualified to practice law in Nigeria. Order 15 of the 1876 Supreme Court Civil Procedure Rules empowered the Chief Justice of the Federation to admit anybody who is entitled to practice as barrister or solicitor in England, Scotland, or Ireland and of good character to practice in Nigeria.

2. The Period of 1914 – 196

During this period, indigenous lawyers trained in England and other U.K countries returned to the Country and began practicing law. This period was recognized as the earliest form of indigenous practice of law by qualified persons.

3. The Period of 1962 – Till Date

This is an important era and under this era, the Nigerian Law School was established. It was because of certain deficiencies that existed in the previous era that led to this period and the establishment of the Nigeria Law School.

The following are the obvious deficiencies that led to the establishment of Nigerian Law School:

  1. A degree was not required, the minimum educational requirement was GCE or O’ level, therefore some Nigerians who were not graduates were called to bar.
  2. The training did not take into cognizance the peculiarity of the Nigerian legal system
  3. In U.K a person is either trained as a Barrister or a Solicitor but upon return to Nigeria, the person practices in both capacities

The above deficiencies led to the forming of a committee in 1959 known as the Unsworth Committee. The committee came up with several recommendations one of which includes the establishment of the Nigerian Law School.

These recommendations were adopted and it gave birth to the Council of Legal Education Act 1962 pursuant to which the Nigerian Law School was established.

The Nigerian Law School started with eight students in 1963 at No 213A Igbosere Road Lagos where it remained until 1966.

Persons Entitled to Practice In Nigeria

(During the August 2019 and the January 2020 Bar Finals, Law School students were examined on this topic. So take note if you are a Law School Student. See Q 1e of August 2019 and Q 3a Jan 2020)

The following persons can practice in Nigeria:

  1. Persons entitled to practice by virtue of their office; e.g. the Attorney General of States and the Federation, Solicitor General of States and the Federation. However, they must have been so qualified to be appointed to the position.
  2. Persons entitled to practice generally; e.g. All legal practitioners enrolled at the Supreme Court
  3. Persons entitled to practice for the purpose of a particular proceeding by Warrant granted by the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Such a person can only handle the matter for which the warrant was granted. It is under this provision that foreign Lawyers can represent a client in Nigerian Court although they are not Nigerian-trained Lawyers.

Conditions to Qualify for Admission as a Legal Practitioner in Nigeria

To be admitted to the Bar as a qualified Legal Practitioner, the person must satisfy certain conditions are they are:

  1. He satisfies the Benchers that he is of good character
  2. He produces a qualifying certificate to the Benchers (The above two are the conditions for Call to the Bar
  3. He has his name enrolled as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court
  4. He has paid his practicing fees. See Section 4(1) of the Legal Practitioners Act

NOTE: The qualifying certificate for Call is issued by the Council of Legal Education. See Section 5 of the Legal Education Act

Conditions for enrolment at the Supreme Court are:

A new Wig is expected to immediately or as soon as practicable go to the Supreme Court for enrolment. The following are the conditions for enrolment:

  1. That a person has been called to the Bar by the Benchers and;
  2. He produces the Certificate of his call to the Bar to the Registrar of the Supreme Court. See Section 7 (1) of the LPA

Exemption from Attendance of the Nigerian Law School

Under certain circumstances, a person may be entitled to either FULL or PARTIAL exemption from attending the Nigeria Law School.

The Law School programme is divided into Bar Part 1 and Bar Part 2. The Bar Part 1 program is designed for people who studied Law in other jurisdictions and are desirous of practicing in Nigeria. The aim of Bar Part 1 is to introduce the students to Nigerian Laws and Legal systems.

The Bar Part 2 program is the actual course that qualifies a Nigerian graduate of law to be admitted as a legal practitioner after passing the exams. It is a professional exam for Law Schools seeking to be admitted to the profession.

A. Partial Exemption from Bar Part I

Below are the conditions to entitle someone to be exempted from Bar Part 1

  1. If you are a graduate of Law from a Common Law jurisdiction teaching Law in a Faculty of law in Nigeria for a period of 5 years
  2. If you are a graduate of a non-common law jurisdiction who has taught law for 10 years in the Faculty of law in Nigeria and above. See Section 2(a) & (b) of the Legal Education (Consolidation) Act 1976.

B. Partial Exemption from Attending the Nigeria Law School

To qualify for exemption under the Bar II programme, such a person must meet the following conditions:

  1. A Nigerian citizen.
  2. Qualified to be admitted to the Nigeria Law School.
  3. But lost the opportunity to attend the Nigeria Law School for reasons beyond his control.
  4. His subjects trained are the qualifying subjects of the Nigerian Law School.
  5. He has over the years gathered enough knowledge and experience for a period not less than five (years) that it will be unreasonable to require him to attend Nigeria Law School.

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Conclusion on History of the Legal Profession in Nigeria

We this article on the History of the Legal Profession in Nigeria was helpful to you. In case you have any question to ask concerning this, kindly use the comment section below and let us know. Thanks.

You may also want to read about “Regulation of the legal profession in Nigeria

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