Rethinking Our Modus Operandi
By Daniel Amaechi Onwe Esq.
Socrates admonishes all humanity when he said, “an unexamined life is not worth living, man know thyself.” Could it be that COVID-19 is saying the same thing to us today in the Legal Profession or even the wider society?
On the average, in places like Lagos for instance, the average worker expends the minimum of five hours of his or her life just commuting to and from work every day.
The story is not totally different in other parts of the country. And if one works this way for twenty years, one would have cumulatively squandered close to five precious years of his or her life on the road. This length of time is long enough to earn a Bachelor’s degree or a PhD. Degree.
This style of work undermines productivity, as the worker can hardly be rested enough to work optimally.
The effect on children, whose parents work in this manner could be tragic, and only time can tell how much. Need I mention the strain such work-life can have on conjugal relationships, and the overall consequence on matrimony? This modus operandi is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.
As catastrophic as the ongoing corona pandemic may be, it has at least taught us two life changing lessons. Firstly, our traditional mode of work is no more sustainable.
Secondly, Technology has offered us a world of possibilities and better alternative ways of working, that we can ignore only to our peril. Some smart people have already tapped into these possibilities, working with less stress an making global impact.
In other words, when others are grinding their lives on the never-ending traffic, to get to their place of work, these ones are at the very comfort of their homes and other remote locations doing great works for clients across the globe. They have no need of commuting to and from work.
It is high time we pragmatically took a hard look at our own ways of doing things, as lawyers. Why must clients travel long distances to go and brief their lawyers, when they can very effectively interact via various social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom etc?
Why must lawyers travel all the way to their offices, far away, just to go and draft pleadings and other legal documents, he or she can as well prepare without the necessity of stepping out of his house?
Why must we all hit the road out about the same time, congesting the roads, to attend a court session, where we will only be adopting documents that are already before the court, or to move motions in terms of the motion paper?
Why must matters be adjourned, only because either the judge or counsel could not make it to the court?
There is absolutely no justifiable reason why we cannot file virtually all our court processes one line. Thank God, the Corporate Affairs Commission is considerably demonstrating that on-line filing is not a big deal.
It does not sound too pleasant for lawyers or judges to say, sometimes with some air of incorrigibility, that they are computer and on-line under-educated in this 21st century.
The legal profession, undoubtedly, is a traditional profession. However, unless I am mistaken, backwardness is not a part of that tradition, and as it were, any human device, institution or practice that refuses to bend for the wind of change will always break or pale into irrelevance.
Granted, that not all jobs can be done remotely, however, if jobs that can be remotely done are remotely done, then we would be making our lives a lot easier, increase productivity and save cost.
Our roads would be free of that hellish traffic, frustrating those who, as a matter of necessity, should be plying the roads. We will be considerably reducing stress, and its attendant mortality.
On-line is the place to fruitfully, though tactically, do marketing without necessarily running foul of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners.
It is heart-warming that the Nigerian judiciary, at the federal and state levels, has been issuing practice directions on how the courts’ practices and procedures would be driven by technology during the COVID-19 lockdown. However, it will be nothing more than a pyric victory if such innovations are only targeted at the period of the lockdown.
The judicial institution as well as individual lawyers and judicial officers must reinvent themselves to comply with the current digital world. The world is a race, where every legitimate means of locomotion is allowed. Those who adopt the faster vehicles lead the pack, and those who are stock with slower vehicles, or even run on foot, merely relegate themselves to irrelevance.
We all must take responsibility and push for the most efficient means of driving the justice administration system in Nigeria. And no law, no rule and no person should be or remain an obstacle in the day of change.