LAW BEYOND THE LAW FIRM
It’s becoming a trend to find persons who study the law but eventually have no interest in adjudicating in a courtroom or carrying on the conventional duties of lawyers working in a law firm. Some persons may find that they lack the confidence to present a case before the court or are unable to gain employment in a law firm. This should ordinarily not be a cause for concern as there are several other roles which a lawyer may play other than the conventional ones. The role of a lawyer in this 21st century cannot be overstated nor overestimated.
Some of these non-conventional roles include;
1. Company secretary
The Companies and Allied matters Act of Nigeria, 2004 in its section 291 for instance, mandates that every company has a company secretary. The Act also lists a legal practitioner as one of the persons who has the necessary qualifications to hold this position. The duty of a company secretary cannot be compared to that of a regular secretary. In Wimpey v Balogun, a company secretary was described as “a high ranking officer in the company set-up and is indeed part of the management of the company.”
The duties of a company secretary may include;
- Attendance at meetings of the company, board of directors meetings and board committee meetings. Rendering all necessary secretarial services in respect of such meetings and advising on compliance and regulatory issues;
- Maintaining statutory registers and other records of the company;
- Rendering proper and timely returns as required under CAMA;
- Carrying out such administrative and other secretarial duties as directed by the directors or the company;
- The secretary may also, where duly authorized by the board of directors, exercise any powers vested in the directors.
2. Compliance specialist
Also known as compliance officers, these specialists are majorly tasked with the duty of ensuring that organizations remain up-to-date on all regulatory and licensing requirements in accordance with company, state, and federal regulations. They develop, implement, and enforce policies and procedures that keep a company’s products, processes, and physical sites operating in a legal and ethical manner. In a circumstance where there is a suspected violation of compliance, it is up to these specialists to conduct audits or investigations, recommend areas for improvement, and develop roadmaps for remediation.
3. Conflict analyst
This role is not very common in Nigeria but however do exist predominantly in other nations such as the United States and is especially needed in big law firms to prevent more than one lawyer in the same firm from taking on the case of the same client. The conflict analyst acts as a first contact for potential clients by processing queries from people who are seeking legal counsel. They carry on extensive search through their system to determine if there would be any conflict of interest where their law firm were to represent the client. Their duties include but are not restricted to;
- Performing research and analysis to identify potential conflicts of interests.
- Working with Supervisors in determining resolutions for conflict issues.
- Reviewing conflict reports and prepare issue summaries for management.
- Maintain database to record all conflict related activities.
- Follow best practices and stay current with conflict law.
4. Third-party neutral
Another emerging field of law in which lawyers are known to play a significant role is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). These are methods of resolving disputes other than the conventional courtroom proceeding. These ADR mechanisms usually require the service of an impartial third party who plays the role of an umpire in the case, helping them reach a resolution. This umpire may be in the form of an arbitrator, negotiator, conciliator, mediator, private judge, amongst others, all of which a lawyer has the skillset to play.
This is a person charged with the duty of inspecting and verifying the accuracy of a company’s operational and financial records. Auditors are needed in order to verify that processes are functioning as planned, and that the financial statements produced by an organization fairly reflect its operational and financial results. There are two types of auditors;
- External auditors which is an independent firm engaged by the client subject to the audit, and
- Internal auditors who are employed by the organizations they audit.
The duties of an auditor includes;
- Ensuring compliance with established internal control procedures by examining records, reports, operating practices, and documentation.
- Verifying assets and liabilities by comparing items to documentation.
- Completing audit work papers by documenting audit tests and findings.
- Appraising adequacy of internal control systems by completing audit questionnaires.
- Maintaining internal control systems by updating audit programs and questionnaires; recommending new policies and procedures.
- Communicating audit findings by preparing a final report; discussing findings with auditees.
- Complying with federal, state, and local security legal requirements by studying existing and new security legislation; enforcing adherence to requirements; advising management on needed actions.
- Preparing special audit and control reports by collecting, analyzing, and summarizing operating information and trends.
These are just a few of the many roles which a lawyer can play outside of their conventional practice. If adjudication is not your ‘thing’ so to say, that is acceptable as there are still a host of other shoes to fill with your law degree. A lawyer already playing the conventional role can also delve into these other fields just to broaden his/her horizon and gain more experience.
 (1987) 2NWLR (Pt. 28) 322
Content Provider, Legal Pages
Content Provider, Legal Pages