Nonye Agomuo, co-founder and acting managing director of NaijaBarrister, in this interview with INIOBONG IWOK, spoke on the services rendered by NaijaBarrister, an online legal hub managed by LegalHub Associate and Solutions Limited. He also spoke on the essence of the hub, the benefit to lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Excerpts:
By way of introduction, may we know about NaijaBarrister?
It is a start-up that was partially launched last year; which affords Lawyers and non-Lawyers the opportunity to connect with others in order to solve any of their legal issues. We are a destination for legal advice and legal solutions in Nigeria. The services as provided by the brand can be accessed largely through our website, www.naijabarrister.com. Our services can also be followed and accessed through our social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook) with the handle @naijabarrister.
You mentioned NaijaBarrister. What informed the name and what is it about?
The name Naijabarrister was informed by our desire to have a name that can resonate with everyone in the society both within and outside the legal profession. We wanted to create a platform for Nigerians across all works of life, hence the fusion of Naija and Barrister.
The Platform allows Lawyers to uniquely interact with one another towards solving their peculiar legal needs, it also allows Lawyers to interact with non-Lawyers and potential clients in order to help resolve their legal issue(s). Naijabarrister is therefore, committed to providing easy access to Nigerian laws, Lawyers, legal resources and advice to individuals, businesses and organisations in Nigeria.
May we know the features of Naijabarrister?
For a Lawyer to explore the benefits of the website he/she is expected to “Create a Profile” or an account, which is one of the most important features on the website. The process to creating a profile is very simple, Lawyers are expected to provide their Supreme Court number as part of the requirements. The purpose of this is to ensure that only Lawyers licensed or duly Called to Bar by the Supreme Court of Nigeria are able to create a profile, thereby keeping out fake or imposter Lawyers.
After creating a profile, Lawyers can view their dashboards which contain information about their briefs, articles, and contacts from non-Lawyers/potential clients. Non-Lawyers who intend to interact with a Lawyer would need to provide some personal details which are strictly confidential in order to gain access to the services. Another unique feature is the “Post a Brief” feature.
Lawyers can use this feature to request a Lawyer in a different jurisdiction to handle a brief for them in that jurisdiction. The way it works is that when a Lawyer posts a brief, the brief is seen by Lawyers in the jurisdiction where the brief is to be held. They indicate interest in the brief and the lawyer posting the brief is free to choose which of the Lawyers he wants to handle the brief. Brief includes non-court activities, like registering a company, attending a meeting, or going to bail a client from the police station.
Non-Lawyers and Lawyers alike can use the website to “Find a Lawyer” in any practice area and or State in Nigeria in order to engage the Lawyer for a legal service. This feature makes the legal service and Lawyers more accessible to the public from wherever the User may reside.
Also, Non-Lawyers can ask questions to a pool of competent Lawyers using the “Ask a Lawyer” feature, where they can get quality and unbiased advice/answers or solutions to their legal questions or issues. Providing answers to the questions posed by the Inquirer or potential Clients may end up creating a Lawyer/Client relationship.
In addition to this, Non-Lawyers and Lawyers alike are able to contact each other through a direct contact approach for further deliberation on any legal issue(s) in view. The website allows registered Lawyers to post legal related “Articles” (in a formal or informal way) or practice notes.
Practice notes are short notes that tell how to do something or that answers a pertinent legal question or a practice procedure- for example, how to register a company at CAC, or a new requirement for legal filings, etc. Lengthy theoretical articles are not welcomed. Lawyers can share their NaijaBarrister profile on their various social media platforms.
This is a unique feature that also serves as an electronic business card as a Lawyer’s profile contains his practice areas, contact information, a short bio, and reviews from clients. Again, the platform offers Lawyers and the public an opportunity to access latest legal and legal related jobs through it “Search for Legal Jobs” feature. Jobs on our platform are curated and updated every week. Finally, we are introducing a new feature called “Lawyers Community”.
This feature will afford Lawyers the opportunity to chat or interact with one another on various engagements; ranging from social engagements to academic engagements. Lawyers will be able to create a discourse and also join an existing discourse. The Lawyers Community is aimed at bringing Lawyers from every area of practice and location together to familiarise with one another.
You talked about technology and law. Everything has gone digital. Apart from other services that Naijabarrister offers, are you offering training services in also?
Presently, we are not offering training services; though it is something we are considering and will inform the public when we begin offering that.
At the moment, we are concerned with bridging the unprecedented gap in legal service delivery between Lawyers and the public (particularly the indigents), and to help restore confidence and hope in the Nigerian legal system by offering the public an opportunity to connect and interact with Lawyers from wherever their place of operation or residence.
Since the launch in 2022, may we know the level of acceptance out there? I mean, how you have been engaging with your target audience?
It has been quite an experience, the brand is unique and it’s here to stay. We have had lots of goodwill messages both offline and online (through our social media platforms) regarding the brand and its services. At inception, some Lawyers were critical on whether the brand isn’t in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct regarding advertising.
We ensured that this critical query was duly addressed, which is why we reiterate here still, that NaijaBarrister is a channel or link through which Lawyers and Non-Lawyers connect with each other to solve their legal issues. Naijabarrister does not hold briefs on behalf of Clients nor does it stand as a legal representation to Clients.
As Lawyers, my Colleagues and I are familiar with the provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct on unfair legal practice and as such, Naijabarrister refrains from using its platform to promote or praise any legal officer. Naijabarrister is gaining huge acceptance from the public and Lawyers alike, this can be witnessed from the many engagements both on our “Ask a Lawyer” website page and our social media platforms. Also, this can be seen in the numbers of registered Lawyers on the website.
From your experience, how has technology helped the work that legal practitioners do?
The advent of technology has indeed made the job of legal practitioners seamless and more effective. Legal Practitioners can easily transact and conclude their businesses with clients without physically meeting with them. I have some clients outside Nigeria whom I have never seen, yet I manage their legal briefs here in Nigeria as a result of technology.
Technology has made research less cumbersome for legal practitioners as legal resources or materials can be accessed online without breaking a sweat. Virtual meetings and virtual proceedings in some courts have reduced delays in judgment delivery and enhanced business efficiency. Also, our platform allows lawyers to give briefs to lawyers in a different jurisdiction with less inconvenience.
You spoke about creation of profile or an account; why is it that such can be done only by lawyers that are licensed or Called to Bar by the Supreme Court?
It is our policy that to proffer or offer any legal service on our website, you must have the requisite legal qualification which is also in line with Section 2 of the Legal Practitioners Act, Cap. 207, LFN where it holds that a person shall be entitled to practise as a barrister and solicitor if, and only if, his name is on the roll (List of Called to Bar Lawyers by the Supreme Court of Nigeria). This process also is to identify real Lawyers against imposters. Naijabarrister is all about professionalism and integrity.
Could you please talk to us about the prospect of Law profession in Nigeria? Many young people are leaving the country for greener pastures; what are the steps you think should be put in place to encourage people going into the profession?
The legal profession in Nigeria is quite challenging for both lawyers and non-lawyers. For lawyers, the legal process is tedious and inefficient. For non-lawyers, the legal process is expensive, non-responsive and unreliable. These make the citizens avoid the court system, and in turn affect the ability of lawyers to earn a living from the profession. To encourage people to get into the profession, the profession must be rewarding.
The court system must be efficient and reliable. Political office holders must comply with court orders, and people should have confidence that they can obtain justice in a court of law within a reasonable time frame.
What are other incentives for people who subscribe to Naijabarrister?
For Lawyers, aside the fact that they can get potential clients on the Naijabarrister website as a result of their engagements and presence therein, the website also serves as an online office for them. Lawyers can share their profile on their various social media platforms. Again, Lawyers and non-Lawyers alike are exposed to a pool of competent Lawyers from different practice areas that are willing to offer unbiased and potent legal advice and or solutions to any of their issues.