Legal research, despite how important and unavoidable to every lawyer, it is my observation that some lawyers have neglected this aspect of their legal practice, perhaps because of economic hardship that everyone is experiencing in Nigeria and the global economic meltdown. Nevertheless, I have considered that legal research is unnoticed as financial succor for lawyers, hence, this paper.
The word ‘research’ is defined by the Webster online dictionary as a ‘careful study that is done to find and report new knowledge about something’, ‘the activity of getting information about something’. Therefore, from this definition, ‘legal research’ can be defined as a careful study that is done to find and report new knowledge about law and this includes the activity of getting information about law’. The two phrases that make more meanings to me in these definitions are: ‘report new knowledge’ and ‘getting information’. In my humble view, these two phrases are very important as where a lawyer is always involved in legal research, he discovers many untouched areas of law and then, he reports same to his colleagues and the necessary authorities in charge to make necessary policies that favour the societies. Also, where such a lawyer carries out legal research, he is not far from getting several pieces of information that benefit himself, his colleagues, the legal profession and the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is my humble view that legal research is a great tool for a lawyer as he aspires for proficiency and greatness in the legal practice and the legal profession.
Furthermore, in this period, legal research is very important for a lawyer to discover various areas of law and to develop those areas. There is a need to develop the laws and this is practicable where lawyers engage in thorough legal research. Today, majority of lawyers, in my humble view, upon their call to the Nigerian bar, with due respect, are after making money such as millions, riding big new model cars, start building gigantic buildings, wearing the most fashionable latest dresses, etc, even without a single successful legal practice! This is only far from reality! I, in my humble view, consider that the first thing that should matter most is ‘learning the practice of the law’, all of those aspirations for materialism will come through! Also, legal research is one of those tools in reaching the aspirations of proficiency and greatness if utilized positively. To me, with due respect, legal research is the easiest but the most difficult for a lazy man/lawyer! How could a lawyer that aspires proficiency and greatness and desires to make millions in money be waking from bed at 8: am (with no genuine reason), watching season films, always travelling almost throughout the week and spend a week without having read a book on law or on his areas of specialization or practice and having not even read a case law for legal research?! Yet such a lawyer will spend five years or more in the legal profession and proudly emphasize that he is a senior lawyer! Please, of what use is his seniority at the bar?! How can he argue legal arguments on the area of law that he claims to profess?!
Then, he says he only requires making money as he had been done with reading immediately he was called to the Nigerian bar! Perhaps he should ask learned Senior Advocates of Nigeria, perhaps he should ask judges, perhaps he should ask lecturers, among other esteemed personalities in the legal profession how it has been with them to have been able to sustain their position in the legal practice! You aspire to be proficient and be great but you are lazy, sluggish, unwilling to research and you are engaging in those transactions that only waste your time with no relevance or positive impact in your legal practice! I am not saying that there should be no play! A lawyer must read newspapers or at least, read the news on the www.nigerialawyer.com created by Unini Chioma (one of the leading lawyers’ blogs in Nigeria) or any other law blogs or social media platforms. The platforms for legal research are even many at this time as a result of the advancement in technology and social media. The legal profession or the legal practice cannot be complete this day, without digital.
On the 15th day of October, 2019, the Nigerian Bar Association, Abuja Branch (The Unity Bar) under the Chairmanship of Mr Folarin Aluko, organized a capacity building training by way of a Discussion Series which marked the 22nd Discussion Series since inception pioneered by the immediate past administration under the Chairmanship of Mr Ezenwa Anumnu, with the theme ‘LEGAL PRACTICE IN THE DIGITAL ECOSYSTEM’, which was held at the National Human Rights Commission’s Headquarters, Abuja. Among the lessons learnt from such discussion by me were: first was that the world has grown up to the digital world so is the medical practice, so is the engineering practice and so shall be the legal practice in the very near future to come where even a lawyer’s physical office/chambers would go into extinction and that Artificial Intelligence will even most likely replace lawyers in their practice. This indeed is a signal for lawyers to make sure that they engage in further learning of the digital practice and to also use technology as a tool in their legal practice and in reaching out to clients. Second, there are various technologies created now which act like a robot to even detect lies and to help in the forensic analysis (through forensic sciences) of facts in both criminals, civil and recruitment field of discipline.
Third, the majority of that personnel who are even in the digital/technology industries are not in connection/contact with lawyers, therefore, lawyers need to build a digital means of reaching these technicians in their world. Fourth, there are several briefs in the digital world or environments that lawyers are already losing which lawyers need to get aware of how the digital/online/technological system operates. It is also important for lawyers to know the liabilities of intermediaries in the digital world. The Nigerian Cybercrimes Act of 2015 is of importance in the criminalization of cybercrimes. Many bloggers and other technicians do not know the legal implications of their actions, hence, at various times, they run into troubles. So, digital legal research has become a great tool for lawyers to utilize to fulfill their aspirations in the legal practice.
Furthermore, I wish to recommend that every law office make it a daily routine for junior lawyers in their office to always learn at least an aspect of law daily. Though it is like a form of compulsion to those lawyers, the overall is for their good.
So, lawyers, should try in their best efforts to always research on laws, discover challenges, make recommendations to the appropriate government’s authority for necessary policies that suit the societies, write legal articles at least, once a week on their discoveries in the course of legal research, or write in journals, write law books, teach what they know in law, among others. In these ways, I believe that there would be gradual development and money will come around you as a lawyer!
Furthermore, it is common knowledge that readers/researchers are leaders! When you are blessed with knowledge, then, you are blessed with the greatest wealth- wealth of knowledge, upon which every other success rests! As a lawyer and as a legal adviser (who is what a lawyer is to his clients), legal research should be your guide! Also, the first ten years of being a lawyer after the call to bar is a rigorous period where a lawyer must lay the foundation for his aspirations in the legal practice/profession.
Finally, it is my humble submission that legal research when effectively carried out as a result of increasing the economic capacity of a lawyer. Also, where a lawyer can sacrifice to engage in continuous legal research and is renowned in that effort, his money comes in flowing in millions, billions, or trillions in naira or dollars and that marks the end of sufferings! Nevertheless, until then, a lawyer must be scholarly, legal research-oriented and continue to aspire for proficiency and greatness, then, the rest becomes a story! I wish myself and you enjoyable legal research and fulfillment of aspirations in the legal practice and the legal profession as a whole, while at the same time, wishing to see you at the top!