20 Defining Legal Events of 2020 (Part 1)

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The events of this year, in particular, the global pandemic COVID-19, have elicited several changes in the way we live, work, our priorities and the paradigms with which we approach the world. These transformations have cut across sectors, industries, and markets. Some burgeoning frontiers have found their growth rapidly accelerated, while with others, questions arise about their relevance in the new normal. The legal industry was similarly impacted as “everything that affects the clients’ business, affects ours”- Ozofu Ogiemudia. To wit, LEGAL BUSINESS has rounded up 20 legal events that has and will define the legal industry, going forward.

  1. Remote Work Paradigm

Due to the COVID-19 preventive measures taken by several nations around the world, law firms were constrained to shut their physical offices and implement remote work policies for their staff. In Nigeria, the first government-mandatory lockdown was implemented on March 29th and extended till June 30th.  During this time law firms across the nation implemented work from home policies and strategies to meet clients demands. This forced a paradigm shift on several levels. Some firms have had to reevaluate their KPIs to emphasis delivery and productivity instead of attendance and physical presence on the premises, others have streamlined their processes for improved efficacy. Clients have also placed an increased demand on paying for results and demand specifics of time when billed per hour. This has accelerated the use of administrative software for firms still not using them and made it an increased necessity for those on the journey. In this new paradigm, an associate’s ability to self-motivate will distinguish them, so will the team leaders’ ability to lead across the cyberspace.

2. Increased emphasis on Digitalisation & Cyberspace

In line with (i) above and the influence of COVID-19 on the world, the legal industry has rapidly engaged with cyberspace. There was an increased use of Zoom, Microsoft teams, Slack, Asana and like platforms for meetings and project management. Website were overhauled and several more created; over 50% of commercial law firm hosted, featured in or sponsored a webinar, and still others actively engaged in other marketing strategies like newsletters and use of their social media platforms. Legal Business recalls that its Digital Conversations Series recorded over 2500 registered participants within the first month of initialization. Along this vein, conversations on data privacy, data security, and the efficacy of relevant laws are rampant.

The Judiciary also took a step towards digitalization of proceedings. After the Chief Justice of Nigeria suspended all court sittings indefinitely, “except for cases that are urgent, essential or timebound” several judges began to utilize technology to conduct court proceedings. For instance, the Chief Judge of Borno State conducted a virtual hearing and the Chief Judge of Lagos State issued practice directions for remote hearings.

3. NBA & its Section on Business Law (SBL) hold first virtual conferences

The NBA-SBL held its 14th conference virtually on 16th -17th July 2020. The conference described as Virtual Active™ by the past NBA-SBL president, Seni Adio, SAN, and themed, “Business Unusual: Digital Acceleration for Growth in a New World” featured, and over 3,500 delegates, and was a widely acclaimed success. Seni Adio, SAN stated that the e-Conference was “a symbol of resilience, adapting, dynamism, and teamwork, as well as the result of a labour of love, and an overriding commitment to our stakeholders.” He added that, it was “a landmark event and an appetizer towards the forthcoming NBA Annual General Conference (AGM)”.

The 60th Annual General Conference (“AGC”) of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”), themed “Step Forward” held 26th – 29th August 2020. Celebrating the diamond jubilee of one of the oldest associations in Nigeria, it boasted of 22,000 attendees and marked the last event of Paul Usoro, SAN in his capacity as NBA President. In his opening remarks he noted that the conference provided an opportunity to “interrogate the steps we need to move forward towards the next sixty years.”

Would future events be cyborg? We look towards the 2021 conferences to tell us.

4. NBA changes administration

In a significant election in NBA history, Olumide Akpata emerged as the association’s 30th president. Akpata who defeated his two contenders with a significant number of votes, is the first non-Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to be President of the Bar since 1989, when Alao Aka-Bashorun served as President of the Bar. Akpata won the election with a total of 9,891 votes of the total 18,256 ballots cast (54.3%), next was Babatunde Ajibade, SAN polling 4,328 votes and Dele Adesina, SAN with 3,982 votes. In his augural address he highlighted six main focus areas of his administration and shared his thoughts on the “unfortunate erosion of the ethical values and professionalism that once characterised our Noble Association” which he described as a “nagging concern”.

Less controversial but equally significant, the NBA- SBL inaugurates a new executive committee with Ayuli Jemide leading the charge as President. In his acceptance speech, Jemide stated that, “our major immediate tasks would include strengthening the institutional and governance structure of the SBL and building systems for SBL to increase its menu and value proposition to paying members and constituents.”

5. NBA Women’s Forum and New York State Bar Association enter partnership

 On 13th August, via a virtual ceremony, the Nigerian Bar Association, Women Forum (NBAWF) and the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) through its Women-in-Law Section signed a Memorandum of Understanding, (MOU) in a bid to achieve its common goal of empowering women in the profession by exchanging information as it relates to women’s rights and mentoring women lawyers.

Oluyemisi Bamgbose, Chairperson, NBAWF said, “Today is a very significant day and we believe the outcome of this MOU will be very impactful and long lasting”. The alliance with the NBA Women Forum – evidenced by a Memorandum of understanding (MOU) – will involve the joint implementation of initiatives to advance and empower women in the legal profession and all women under the law, for success. The MOU between the two associations was signed on Thursday during a virtual ceremony.

 

 

 

 

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