Olayemi F. Olushola knocks the piece on in-house lawyers:
This is a reaction to the above subject published in the This Day Lawyer section of This Day newspaper dated the 29th of June 2010.
As I read your publication, I became sick. It is very obvious to me that your publication comes from a very myopic grasp of the knowledge and workings of Law. In my opinion, you should have carried out a research at least on the internet before proceeding on a national daily. Your publication is definitely not researched and therefore falls short of the standard of an article.
The intention of this article is not only to disabuse the minds of the public who read the above captioned publication, but also to enlighten the public on the roles/functions of the in-house lawyer/counsel. In other words, who is the In-house Lawyer?
According to Black’s Law Dictionary, “A lawyer is a person learned in the Law, as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person licensed to practice Law”. The law on the other hand is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political and social authority and deliver justice. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems.
In Nigeria, once you have passed the requirement of the Council of Legal Education, which consist of having your Bachelor of Law Degree and qualifying in the Nigerian Law School, you will be enrolled into the Supreme Court of Nigeria as a Barrister and Solicitor. The name and qualification cannot be taken away from you unless you are guilty of falling fowl of the Rules of Professional conduct. Nothing stops a lawyer who is in a salaried employment to go to court to defend pro bono, for charity, family or if he is sued. This is provided for in the Legal Practitioners Act.
In-house Lawyers comprise of the Lawyers in the government parastatals, the corporate organisations and nongovernmental organisations. Their primary role is to serve as Legal Advisers. In corporate organizations for example, lawyers are there to help the company achieve their goals. The lawyers in this field of practice require a much wider set of skills. At this juncture, let me state here that once you have been called to the Nigerian Bar, you are opened to various career paths, which includes but certainly not limited to private practice, corporate organisations, government parastatals, nongovernmental organisations and the Bench. These practitioners then apply their acquired legal knowledge and skills to solve the various legal issues peculiar to that concern/organisation. You can understand why the above captioned subject matter baffled me, it is understandable coming from a non lawyer, but when it is coming from an acclaimed lawyer, I am indeed taken aback.
The duties of an in-house lawyer in a corporate organisation are, but not limited to the following:
• Preparing and vetting of contracts agreements and other legal instruments.
• Serving in committees and offering legal advice in the company.
• Representing the company in court.
• Liaising with security agencies.
• Perfection of title deeds.
• Continuous research in updating of legal knowledge as it relates to particular fields.
• Liaising with the Police and courts on matters affecting the company.
• Giving legal appraisal of investment proposals, ensuring safety and security of investment from the legal perspective. Preparation and perfection of investment instruments e.g. mortgages, trust deeds, deeds of guarantee, indemnity, bonds, assignments etc.
• Vetting important correspondences initiated by the other departments within the company such as letters of dismissal of staff, repudiation of liability, offer of ex-gratia payment, offer and acceptance of contracts, taxation etc. Also vetting of advertisement in the national dailies and televisions to ensure compliance with Laws and Regulation.
• Filing of statutory returns with the Corporate Affairs Commission and relevant regulatory authorities.
• Preparation of Board and Annual General Meetings of the company.
• Recording of minutes at the Board and Annual General meetings. This therefore knocks out your assertion that these practitioners are overpaid. However, you are pardoned because obviously you are lay concerning this issue.
From the foregoing, it is apparent that without your training as a lawyer you can never carry out these functions and even that training is just the beginning, for these categories of practitioners you are expected to be up to date with working technology and relevance in Law.
Since moving in-house, I have not only advised on all kinds of legal matters, I have also found myself playing a very active role in broader strategy, for example I have had correspondences on agreements at international levels and also had engagements with the Securities and Exchange Commission and high regulatory authorities, plus I can boast of being IT literate with the latest technologies. All thanks to my chosen career path. I must state here that this is the very essence and the beauty of the Legal profession. Every career path is a noble and respectable career path and all lawyers in this field are reasonable and responsible citizens of the legal profession and Nigeria.
Finally, Instead of undermining the very essence of these practitioners who contribute immensely to the noble profession and to the overall benefit of Nigeria by ensuring less litigation and properly advising these companies of their legal obligations/responsibilities and which in turn show case these companies as responsible law abiding citizens, making them add value to the society towards the advancement of our great nation, these lawyers should be applauded. The choice to be a corporate Lawyer is a career path recognised in the Legal Practitioners Act, Rules of Professional conduct and even the Companies and Allied Matters Act!
'acclaimed lawyer'? Go Rookie, Go Rookie