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Repositioning Legal Services For Optimal Impact In The Public Sector (4) By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

The Last Hope (2) By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

In this concluding part of the keynote address presented at the annual legal summit of the Legal Services Department of the Niger-Delta Development Commission, vital suggestions are made for revitalizing legal engagements by the public sector in order to enhance efficiency and professionalism.

9. MAINTAINING ORIGINALITY AND CREATIVITY IN LEGAL SERVICES:
Another way to truly reposition legal services for optimal impact in the public sector is to ensure originality and creativity in our legal works. We must shun all expressions of breach of intellectual property, counterfeiting, plagiarism and imitation. By doing so, creativity is encouraged among legal service providers. This pertains especially to those in the academia and other areas of the public sector which have to do with the intellectual property aspect of legal services.

10. ADEQUATE BUDGETARY ALLOCATION:
We submit that for lawyers who provide legal services from the employ of government ministries, departments, and other parastatals, adequate allocation and funding shall serve as a boost to their productivity thereby serving the interests of the clients and the public better. By extension, adequate funding of legal services in the realm of the public sector encourages pro bono legal services which are made available to indigent members of the public.

11. EQUIPPING AND EMPOWERING LEGAL OFFICERS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR:
A natural corollary of adequate funding of legal officers in the public sector is the adequate equipping and empowerment of legal officers to efficiently discharge their mandate. These equipping range procuration necessary material equipment and tools for legal work and services such as befitting accommodation, office furniture, computer equipment and other essential electrical and electronic gadgets, books, stationery, internet facilities, etc. Apart from the physical equipment, intellectual equipment must also be provided for such as funding for continuing legal education, professional certifications, short-term courses, workshops, etc.

12. PROPER REMUNERATION FOR SERVICES
A workman is indeed deserving of his wages. Undoubtedly, another corollary of adequate funding is that it engenders proper remuneration of legal officers in the public sector. It is suggested that improved remuneration and welfare packages for legal officers will definitely improve the quality of legal services provided.

13. UPHOLDING PROFESSIONAL ETHICS AND REGULATORY COMPLIANCE
Within the ranks of legal professionals, there are those who go against the ethics of the profession in the course of rendering their services in the public sector, in the private-public sector and other related spheres. It is common knowledge that certain in-house lawyers who work with certain quasi-government establishments engage in acts of professional misconduct and illegal practice of law. It is against this backdrop that publications such as the public notice entitled: “Professional Misconduct and the Illegal Practice of Law: A warning to In-House Lawyers of Banks, Insurance Companies and Other Commercial Organizations” was issued. We submit that continued upholding of professional ethics and regulatory compliance among members of the legal profession shall greatly improve and enhance the quality of legal service delivered for maximum impact in the public sector arena and elsewhere.

14. WAR AGAINST IMPERSONATION, RACKETEERING, AND CHALLATANISM WITHIN THE RANKS OF PUBLIC SECTOR LEGAL PROFESSIONALS

Impersonators, racketeers and charlatans, like vermin and parasites have continued to infiltrate the ranks of legal professionals and they have diseased professionalism and standardization in legal service delivery in the public sector. It is not uncommon for non-lawyers to take it upon themselves to engage in legal works which are designed to be carried out by lawyers. And due to obvious incompetence, the resultant legal service is shoddy. It is suggested that stringent punitive legal measures should be ramped up to discourage these harmful practices.

15. RENAISSANCE OF STRONG LEGISPRUDENCE CULTURE

Legisprudence has to do with the study of laws and how they fit into different ideas about what law is and what it should be. It helps us understand how laws work and what they mean in different contexts. The fountain head from which all waters of all satisfactory legal services flow is the law. The law, particularly legislative enactments provide the legal frame of reference on which legal services are effectuated.

To reposition legal services for effective and optimal impact in the public sector, it is submitted that in-depth attention, critical analysis and far-reaching consideration of the effects of bills and other legal instruments at the pre-passage stage be paid by legal experts and legislators being mindful of the long-run effect of laws, bye-laws, rules, policies, regulations, and guidelines, etc. from the genesis of the lawmaking process. This would ensure that the resultant legal services that would emanate from such well-thought-out legislations and allied legal instruments especially capturing specialized areas of modern developments.

FIAT FOR NDDC LAWYERS

Lawyers in the employment of public service entities such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, ICPC, Nigerian Customs Service, etc are empowered to represent their organisations in court. The advantage in this is inclusivity and completeness, given that the in-house counsel would have firsthand information on the subject matter. I therefore find it unacceptable that lawyers employed in the legal services department of the NDDC cannot appear in court to represent the commission. The point is the need to build capacity to meet the manpower needs of the public sector in the legal services department. The era where lawyers only go to court to observe proceedings on behalf of their agencies and parastatals should be discarded outrightly. This does not necessarily exclude hiring private practitioners for very serious cases. Even when this is done, lawyers employed in the public service should still appear with the external counsel in order to create the needed atmosphere for learning and mentoring. In this regard, I humbly suggest that the Commission should engage the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation in order to facilitate the grant of fiat or exemption for lawyers who are operating in the public sector space. The commendable experience with the EFCC and even the police is that legal departments of agencies and parastatals operating in the public sector environment can be strengthened for optimal performance.

INTERNSHIP
One of the ways in which quality can be achieved in the provision of legal services in the public sector is to undertake a programme of internship in private law firms. Under this arrangement, lawyers in the public service will be posted to private law firms to learn and to understudy their strategies and work ethics, for a minimum period of at least three months. This will provide exposure and also broaden the horizon of lawyers for the ultimate benefit of their organisations. When it is realized that at least 80% of judges are appointed from the public sector, then the need for proper grooming and training cannot be overemphasized. Time has changed so fast. The leading law firms in Nigeria take their business as some kind of investment and a lot has gone into equipping their law offices with the latest facilities and infrastructure. The disparity between lawyers operating in the private and public sectors is totally unacceptable. This is why many clients prefer to engage private practitioners to prosecute or defend serious cases. The difference at times may just be in infrastructure and facilities.

CONCLUSION

Lawyers ought to understand the critical sacredness of their calling and the power they wield in advising State actors such as politicians, key public office holders and others who are operating in the public sector. The repositioning we need is no rocket science or anything shrouded in mystery. It is as simple as the lawyers resisting the temptation of allowing or even helping corrupt politicians circumvent the rule of law in order to have their way. It is to apply the law substantively and substantially. It is to speak truth to power by allowing the law to speak clearly at every time on issues upon which they are called upon to advise and render legal services. It is to allow the law to hold power to account! To this end, large law firms, including all categories of legal service providers involved with the public sector are encouraged to raise the banner of the rule of law in every aspect of their legal work and services. By taking such bold steps, we shall experience the repositioning of our legal services and the desired optimal impact in the public sector.

Gatekeepers News is not liable for opinions expressed in this article, they’re strictly the writer’s

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