During the ongoing Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Conference held in Abuja, Mr Tobenna Erojikwe, Chairman of the NBA Institute of Continuing Legal Education and a partner at The Law Crest LLP, took centre stage as a panellist during a plenary session on Tuesday. The session’s theme, “Legal Fees and the 2023 Remuneration Order for Legal Practitioners,” saw Mr Erojikwe make a number of pivotal points that could significantly impact the legal profession in Nigeria.
In his interventions during the plenary session, Mr. Erojikwe made a very strong case for the immediate implementation of the ‘ Minimum Wage ‘ scale approved by the NBA National Executive Council meeting last year for implementation which had a commencement date of January 2023. He explained that the idea of reviewing the remuneration order was prompted by efforts to improve the earnings of employee lawyers, who make up around 75 percent of Nigeria’s legal profession.
He pointed out that with the passage of the legal practitioner’s remuneration order, law firms can no longer justify withholding reasonable and decent wages from their lawyers.
Another point of emphasis during his intervention was the need to review and update the minimum fees outlined in some schedules of the 2023 legal practitioners’ remuneration order. Mr Erojikwe explained that these minimum wages were initially set to protect young lawyers, enabling them to earn a respectable income. However, given the significant changes in Nigeria’s economic landscape, he argued that recalibrating the order to reflect the current reality was crucial. This would provide room for better negotiations and prevent a detrimental “race to the bottom.”
Mr. Erojikwe stressed the urgency of this update, underlining that what might have been deemed adequate in May 2023 could no longer hold true due to the ever-evolving economic conditions. In advocating for this update, Mr Erojikwe signalled his commitment to ensuring that lawyers in Nigeria are fairly compensated for their services and can maintain a decent standard of living.
Mr. Erojikwe’s call for a review of the minimum fees and his call for the immediate implementation of the minimum wage for lawyers was met with nods of approval and appreciation from the legal community in attendance at the NBA AGC. His advocacy for economic justice within the legal profession echoes the sentiments of many lawyers who have long yearned for more equitable compensation.
As the legal community takes stock of Mr Erojikwe’s compelling arguments, it remains to be seen how these ideas will influence future policies and practices within the Nigerian legal landscape. One thing is clear: Tobenna Erojikwe’s impassioned address has ignited a vital conversation about the economic well-being of lawyers and the need to adapt to changing economic indices in the legal profession.