Enduring Benefits Of Paying Bar Practising Fees And Branch Dues On Time By Chidi Udekwe, Esq.
By the end of March, time would elapse for payment of Bar practising fees and branch dues statutorily mandatory for all practising lawyers in Nigeria. The payment of these fees serve not just as a license to practice the noble precession of law but come with their attendant benefits. Some of these benefits are:
Licence to Practice – Payment of Bar practising fees and branch dues serve as a license to practice as they are statutorily mandatory for all practising legal practitioners. Law practice being a serious business requires serious minded individuals who are bound by ethics of the legal profession. This is why the court in the case of Okafor & Ors v. Nweke & Ors (2007) LPELR-2412(SC) described the practice of law as a serious business thus: “Legal practice is a very serious business that is to be undertaken by serious minded practitioners particularly as both the legally trained minds and those not so trained always learn from our examples. We therefore owe the legal profession the duty to maintain the very high standards required in the practice of the profession in this country. The law exists as a guide for actions needed for the practice of the law, not to be twisted and tuned to serve whatever purpose, legitimate or otherwise, which can only but result in embarrassing the profession if encouraged.”
It therefore entails that in maintaining this serious business of law, Legal Practitioners should endeavour to pay these statutory fees as failure to do so could amount to professional misconduct.
The practice of issuing Practice Licence and Stamp after payment of Bar Practising Fees by the NBA is a lofty idea that should be upheld.
Notary Public Appointment – Another benefit of payment of Bar practising fees and Branch dues is that it is a prerequisite for legal practitioners of 7 years post call and above to apply to the Chief Justice of Nigeria to be appointed as a Notary Public of Nigeria. Apart from enhancing the credibility of a legal practitioner, appointment as a Notary public creates another source of income.
The little challenge posed by this is the way and manner the Notary seal is used indiscriminately by some Notaries. The unfortunate story of how some Notaries give out their seals to business centres for use has belittled this first rank legal practitioners attain before aspiring for the higher rank Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
I humbly advocate that the Notaries Public Act enacted in 1936 should be reviewed to meet the exigencies of the 21st Century law practice. The Association of Notaries Public and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) should look into this aspect of practice that could also improve the welfare of Legal Practitioners who are Notaries Public.
Attainment as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) – One of the requirements of attaining the prestigious rank of SAN is the payment of the Bar practising fees and Branch dues as at when due for up to 10 consecutive years by an aspiring legal practitioner. This requirement is inclusive of an aspirant contributing to the growth of his local branch of the NBA since he is required to obtain a letter of good standing from his local branch attesting to his membership and good conduct when applying for SANship. There have been occasions where prospective applicants for the prestigious rank were denied the rank solely on the basis of non payment of the Bar practising fees and Branch dues.
Judicial Appointments – Another important benefit of payment of Bar practising fees and branch dues is that they are used as a criteria in the appointment of suitable legal practitioners into judicial positions in the country. It must be stated that years of practice as a legal practitioner is strictly calculated based on the number of payments receipts of Bar practising fees and Branch dues. Moreover, some other quasi judicial and statutory appointments strictly adopt this procedure.
Participation in Bar Activities: Yet another important benefit of payment of Bar practising fees and Branch dues by a legal practitioner is that it provides him with the opportunity of participating in Bar activities, socialising and networking with learned colleagues and even judicial officers. It is by these payments that a legal practitioner can participate effectively in Bar activities by registering for the Annual General Meeting of the NBA and branch activities. A legal practitioner who fails in these payments may be denied the opportunity of participating in continuing legal education offered by the NBA and its branches.
A legal practitioner who makes it a duty to adhere to these basic payments stands to gain in Bar activities and the NBA much more than the five points enumerated above.
The driving force of any organisation is its members. Bar elections should not be the only time legal practitioners would be concerned or be involved in Bar activities. It is expected that those who are up-to-date with their payments should not just pay and remain redundant but participate actively in Bar activities so as to enthrone dedicated Bar Men who would uplift the fortunes of the Bar.
Indeed, payment of Bar practising fees and Branch dues and other requite fees is beneficial and I humbly urge my learned colleagues not to be caught up by 31st of March 2022 deadline.
Chidi Udekwe Esq.