Learned friends and Eminent guests
I offer apologies for my painful absence. I salute everyone here present.
However, on Friday the 21st day of October 2022, I fell desperately ill after the grueling Ibadan/Lagos Express journey which left me completely traumatized. I could not even attend the BOSAN Reception for the Hon. Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, the new Chief Justice of Nigeria where I was to speak as a Special Guest, and for which event I had travelled from Ibadan to Lagos.
Our learned friend of the Silk — Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN kindly read my speech on my behalf, and I hereby offer my profound appreciation to him.
I was evacuated to Ibadan on Sunday the 23rd day of October,2022 for treatment. I thank God for my survival, while still recuperating at home.
In view of the foregoing, I hereby re-present my 2021 speech for my 2022 presentation “in absentia.”
Thus, by the sheer powerful force of language, my 2021 speech has been transformed to my 2022 speech. I only add my copious congratulations and felicitations to the newly appointed Silks.
I pray that God will bestow upon you all longevity in good health.”Deo volente ”.
Please enjoy the speech
The Contribution of Chief Folake Solanke SAN, CON at the Pre–Swearing–In Induction Programme for the New Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) at the Pre–Swearing –In Induction for the New Senior Advocates of Nigeria at the Victoria Hall, Lagos Continental Hotel, Lagos, on the 10th day of November, 2022.
I thank Chief Felix Fagbohungbe SAN — Chairman of the Committee to Implement Recommendation on the Utilization of the SAN Leadership Fund and Prof. Olanrewaju Onadeko SAN — the Induction Coordinator — for their gracious letter dated the 19th day of November, 2021 inviting me to be a facilitator on the topic: “The Relationship of Senior Advocates of Nigeria with Other Lawyers”
Relationship of Senior Advocates (SANs) with other Lawyers
My focus in this Paper is to concentrate on the relationship of the SANs with junior lawyers. The SANs are well aware of how to relate to one another as learned friends of the Silk.
It is always a source of joy for me to recall with nostalgia, the euphoria which I savoured forty (40) years ago when I became the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). The topic has powerfully reminded me of the tremendous professional impact which my elevation had on me. I am happy to share the experience with you. I believe that my mood of sheer euphoria and jubilation was captured in my Autobiography: “Reaching for the Stars” (Updated Edition),1 in the following words: Soon after my elevation, I had to appear in an appeal in the Supreme Court in Lagos. Having regard to my determination to show superb leadership at the Inner Bar, on the Sunday before the Monday court appearance, I took over a sitting-room in my home to refresh my mind on the details in the Record of Appeal, review the facts and the cases to be cited. A family friend, who came to visit us, was absolutely amazed to find me on a Sunday afternoon, surrounded by law-reports in my sitting room. On my first appearance in the Court that had just decorated me, my legal submissions must reflect my new status as a Silk! I confess that I enjoy the prose in a well- written judgment.
The Inner Bar carries with it, not only immense professional dignity, but it imposes the awesome professional burden of leadership at the Bar so that the younger members can look up to the Senior Advocates to learn from them and be inspired by them. That also translates into the Senior Advocate demonstrating much learning and courtesy to the Bench and to learned colleagues.
In short, a Silk must represent the best in professional ethics, tradition and history. I felt the heavy weight of that professional responsibility and still do. I am gratified that the Bar, both at the local and national levels, has acknowledged my modest contribution to the profession in many ways. I am a life patron of the NBA Ibadan and FIDA Ibadan and now decorated by the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria with the title of “Matriarch of the Bar’. I am most grateful.
The relationship of the SANs with other lawyers is that of friendship at the Bar in the pursuit of justice. As SANs we must treat all lawyers with respect in our leadership role and help the juniors to develop. We should also collaborate with other lawyers to support the Nigerian Bar Association for the edification of our one and only learned profession. Section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 acknowledges the right to the “dignity of the human person.” A Senior Advocate of Nigeria must always be conscious of this protected right by treating the other lawyers courteously and not contemptuously. As Ministers in the temple of justice, we owe a duty to assist and monitor the juniors in a manner that prepares them to be good Seniors in the future. The junior lawyers and lawyers in pupillage should be paid adequate remuneration and hours of duty must comply with the labour law which stipulates 40 hours per week. The learned juniors have a life beyond the law office . I expressed this opinion on the floor of the 2019 NBA Conference in Lagos.
All people are equal before God and man. Thus the SAN must not debase the lofty status of a Silk by being rude to or oppress junior lawyers. Junior lawyers must not be bullied and treated as inferior lawyers. All lawyers are equal before the law without prejudice to the tradition that Juniors must be respectful to their seniors. It would amount to professional arrogance for SANs to bully junior lawyers.
Mentoring the New Wigs
As a SAN, you must not be too busy to monitor, counsel and train learned juniors. Every SAN started as a new wig, and was assisted by a learned senior to climb the ladder of professional success. Further, as the golden creed in the Holy Writ says: “do unto others as you would they should do unto you”.
Participation in Court Proceedings
Further, learned juniors should be encouraged to conduct part of the proceedings in the court-room. I can never forget the day, last century, when I was allowed by the legendary Chief F.R.A. Williams SAN to cross-examine a witness in a land matter at the Ijebu-Ode High Court. That witness was no other personality than Papa — the famous business icon — Chief Timothy Adeola Odutola — the “Ogbeni-Oja” of Ijebu-Ode. Chief F.R.A. Williams SAN was in court , so you can imagine my nervousness and trepidation. However, at the end of my cross-examination, I knew that I too could do it. Subsequently, I cultivated the art and science of cross-examination which became a potent and devastating tool in my conduct of cases , and to astounding success. With all due modesty, I won cases on the potency and penetration of my cross-examination. I always prepared questions for cross-examination. The questions can be expanded as the cross-examination is being conducted. Cross-examination should not be performed in a haphazard and dysfunctional manner. The SAN must emphasize to the juniors that the meaning of being learned is to “know the law”. I also learned many courtroom strategies from my late brother-in-law, the scholarly and erudite Hon. Justice Michael A. Odesanya.
Culture of Reading
A Silk must encourage the culture of reading in every form. I boldly confess that I am a conservative reader of physical books. Reading in every form is crucial, thus the SAN must ensure that their juniors cultivate the culture of reading. Of course, they will follow the example of the leader who has a habit of reading. The more one reads, the better one speaks and writes
The SAN must be a reference point for integrity. Every SAN must be an epitome of integrity. Everyone of us must be corruption-free. In that context, every SAN, and every lawyer must maintain a Clients ’ Account so that the clients ’ moneys are not co-mingled with personal accounts. If each lawyer is corruption-free, there will be no corruption in our justice system, as simple as that. So, let us purify ourselves and be like Caesar’s wife be without blemish in these perilous times. Integrity encompasses good character in all its dimensions. Each of us must engage in self- introspection, self-examination and self-counselling.
Legal Fees — How to Charge for Briefs
This is a delicate matter. It was something that I learned the hard way. In my Autobiography I wrote: Lawyers are supposed to be experts on billing clients but, as I did not handle the issue of fees during my pupillage, I had a serious problems at the beginning of my private practice on how to quantify my professional fees before presenting my bill of costs . Matters soon came to a head as recorded in my Autobiography.
“In 1968, I rendered a ‘legal opinion’, which I considered to be very well-researched and well-articulated, to the Royal Exchange Assurance on an insurance matter. Although it required a great deal of research, I presented a bill of costs for fifty (50) guineas, which I thought was adequate for every brief! I was promptly paid by the company. Soon thereafter, I attended a family celebration in Lagos which was also attended by Chief Charles Olayinka Adesanya — a family friend, who was like a brother to Tori and me. Chief Adesanya asked me how I was getting on in my private law practice. I jubilantly told him that I had just presented my bill of costs for 50 guineas for a legal opinion to the Royal Exchange Assurance. He was aghast!I wondered why.
He asked me if I had been paid, I said, “Yes.” He said, “Folake, you should have presented a bill of costs for 500 guineas (^525.00.0).” I was crestfallen and nearly collapsed. I suffered from insomnia for days because it then dawned on me , that I had been undercharging every client by about 90%!
After a number of sleepless nights, I decided to take remedial action. I composed a letter to the Royal Exchange Assurance Managing Director , in which letter I tried to explain how 500 guineas metamorphosed into 50 guineas, under my own signature in my typed bill of costs! The following day, a cheque for the balance of ^472. 10s with a short forwarding letter arrived in my law chambers. I was elated. I regarded their prompt gesture as a singular demonstration of the company’s confidence in my professional competence and the quality of the ‘legal opinion’, which I had rendered. Further, the company must have realized from the bills of costs received from other lawyers for similar briefs, that I had made a big mistake! Needless to say that, subsequent clients were charged appropriately for professional work done to make up for the deficit! The SANs should let their learned juniors know that they have to establish strategies to ensure payment of professional fees before judgement. Insist on a deposit at the beginning, and ensure full payment of balance before judgement, because win or lose, you may never see the client again. Perhaps the best advice is to tell the junior to seek advice from the learned senior when he is not sure how much to demand in a bill of costs.
Infractions in the Use of Affidavits
Although the Evidence Act 2011 have clear provisions as to the content of affidavits, yet, now, the provisions are often kept in the breach by many lawyers. In the book on advocacy, the two authors wrote as follows: A few decades ago, there was very strict compliance with those provisions. Only facts known to the deponent are allowed in an affidavit. The law forbids the inclusion in an affidavit of extraneous matters by way of objections, or prayers, or legal arguments or conclusions. It is submitted that such extraneous matters have no place in an affidavit. In days gone by, objections were promptly raised by opposing counsel against paragraphs in affidavits which were in breach of the Evidence Act or the court rules. Such objections were readily upheld by the court, by striking out the offending paragraphs. Consequently, if the remainder of the affidavit evidence did not establish the claim in the originating summons or the prayer in an application, the originating process or application was struck out or dismissed to the dilemma of the lawyer and hapless client.3 The SAN must emphasize this point for juniors in the preparation of court processes because juniors often swear affidavits.
Courtesy is one of the pillars of the profession. I am an unyielding advocate of the observance of and respect for seniority and hierarchy. Juniors must be made to know that they owe a duty to be courteous to their seniors, colleagues , staff, court clerks, litigants, witnesses and of course, the Judex. They should be told that the respect extended to the Judex is not for the person sitting on the Bench, but to the honoured position of the Bench. Juniors should stand to welcome a senior and yield his seat for a senior if there is no extra chair . Bowing and standing up are part of our professional tradition. The learned new wigs must be told that the last lawyer at the Bar in the Courtroom must wait till the Court rises. The Court must not preside over an empty Courtroom. The juniors should be told that the Inner Bar is for the SANs. In particular, the learned juniors should know that we have preserved the profession for them, by respecting our seniors when we were juniors. They should perpetuate the tradition so that they can be respected by their juniors in the future.
Punctuality is the essence of time as we all know. Lawyers must respect time, and the SAN must train the new wigs to keep to time . At the 2019 NBA Conference where I chaired the session on “Expanding Your Legal Practice Offshore ”, on the 28th day of August, I ensured that we started and finished in 11/2 hours — no more, no less. The SAN must train the juniors the crucial art of time management. Regrettably, many Nigerians do not respect time. Time is money and disrespect of time leads to loss of revenue for individuals and for the nation. And of course the junior must be trained to dress impeccably for court appearance and arrive in court at 8.30am for the 9.00am commencement of the court proceedings.
Superior Oral Advocacy
Whatever is left of oral advocacy after the ascendancy of written advocacy should be well presented to create a good impression to the Judex and the audience. A bad performance of oral advocacy in the court-room or board-room is a disaster to the learned profession. It is always entertaining to listen to an eloquent speaker. Insecurity in the country is a new dilemma which should engage the attention of every SAN with the issue of ransom being paid for criminality. The NBA and the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (BOSAN) have to lead the campaign to end this travesty of justice when kidnapping, abduction and banditry have become trade by barter. A kidnapper inflicts terror. An abductor inflicts terror, a bandit inflicts terror, so all of them are terrorists. We should not be silent as these heinous and egrigious crimes must not become the norm forever.
In peroration, and this is a sensitive issue, I recommend that SANs (and other senior lawyers) should ask for honorarium when they are invited to be the Chairman or Lecturer or Speaker at a public event because of the intensity of the research, the time, the energy and the intellectual work involved in such a laborious exercise. It should not go for free! Many Nigerians like free Lectures! No more!! I am delighted to say that all our learned friends who have invited me to participate in their celebrations have paid an honorarium, and taken responsibility for my transportation, accommodation and welfare. Non-lawyers should be made to do the same. Such intellectual exercise is not cheap. My recommendation, of course, is at your discretion. In retirement, President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton earn income from public speaking.
All lawyers are urged to pray for good fortune, good health, divine grace and empowerment in their legal practice. Have rest periods, enjoy the Court vacations and relax for the sake of your health and longevity.
May God heal our nation. Amen. May we be empowered by the Almighty God to restore the golden age of our one and only profession. “Deo Volente”.
I thankyou all for your patience andI rest.
Dated 10th day of November, 2022.
Chief Folake Solanke SAN, OON, CON,
B.A., Dip.Ed., FNIALS, LL.D (h.c.), LLD (h.c.)
HLF, D.Litt (h.c.), D.Lit (h.c.), D.Litt (h.c.), LLD (h.c.)
Alabukun Law Chambers, ANCE Building, 2nd Floor
Magazine Road, Jericho, Ibadan, Nigeria
“Matriarch of the Bar”
My Autobiography: “Reaching for the Stars ” (Updated Edition), p. 249 – 250
Ibid, p. 225 – 226.
Oral and Written Advocacy : Law and Practice by Folake Solanke SAN and Fabian Ajogwu SAN, (2016), p. 83.