legal profession to be abreast with global practices since it cannot function in isolation and as such should accept and recognize the concept paralegalism within the legal profession. Members of the legal profession particularly the Nigerian Bar Association must ensure they seek to help this paraprofessionals realize the necessary legal backing needed and sensitize the public about them. The Nigerian Legal Council should take up the challenge of regulating these paraprofessionals who are legal service providers, setting code of conduct and adopting regulations that will protect the public and prevent unauthorized practice of law by non-lawyers within the legal industry. This will ensure proper regulation and
control of the members of the paralegal profession. The Judiciary should use paralegals as administrative staff; this will ensure speedy dispensation of justice. Particularly in rural areas, where they can be utilized as court interpreters where language seems to be a barrier.
1.0 GENERAL INTRODUCTION
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Law has over time helped in reconstructing societies and determining the framework within which a society and its people must work to ensure harmony, peace and reduction in conflict of interest. Roscoe Pound opines that to reduce the conflict of interest the society must adopt the force of social engineering. Law is social engineering, which means a balance between the competing interests in society.1 Recently the postulation that law is an instrument of social change has come to fore with the Nigerian society becoming more engaged in the issues of justice and the need to access justice. Aderibigbe,O.I2 states that in recent times the subject of law as an instrument of social change stands out in distinct lines as legal reforms in Nigeria and all over the world has been at the centre of agenda of government, admitting the fact that law, and its adequate enforcement, is imperative to the achievement of behavioral
change and social justice in a country. The legal profession is therefore saddled with the burden of ensuring that behavioral change and social justice are met. This task of providing access to justice has relatively been unmet by members of the legal profession thus the emergence of another group of social workers within the legal profession called Paralegals. This work will not delve into the jurisprudence of the concept of law and social engineering but will focus on Paralegalism as an emerging trend in Nigeria, a new trend within our clime
A novel concept that is not well known to members of the legal profession and the public in Nigeria. An euphemism that has received little or no recognition by the practitioners themselves particularly practitioners on the job-experience ,such groups of persons are the legal secretaries, court clerks, court registrars, law-librarians and so on who are non-lawyers Members of the legal profession have also not recognized this group of persons known as paralegals. This is so because previously the legal profession was highly conservative and as such does not easily welcome intrusion or changes that will affect the fundamentals of the legal industry. They had the nature that has long established monopoly in the legal market, thus resisting and resenting any innovation that is likely to tamper with or alter the age long approach to the practice of law. 3This nature consequently, made lawyers capture and control the market place or legal services,4 though recently this control has been restricted to the practice of law only. The changes witnessed are because of the continuous development and growth of the legal industry. Cannon, T.A5 states that the last thirty (30) years have witnessed tremendous growth and change in the legal profession generally.
It is pertinent to state that the legal profession exists in a global world where the predominant reality on ground is that of change and therefore cannot continue with its nature of conservatism. Paralegalism is one of the changes evident within the legal industry. The legal practitioners in Nigeria must begin to embrace the global changes occurring in the practice of
law. Lawyers must acquaint themselves with how this global trend affects the practice of law in Nigeria.
It is important to establish that, though the trend paralegalism seems to be new in Nigeria, it has long been entrenched in the legal system of developed countries and in developing countries such as Liberia, South Africa, Sierra Leone and Ghana.
It is of paramount importance to note that though they are recognized and well established in other climes, the status of the paralegal profession is still a flux6in Africa. This is so because there are no laws establishing the paralegal profession in some of those developing countries in Africa.
Members of these paraprofessionals provide legal services to consumers under the control and direction of legal practitioners. They cannot carry out legal activities without the supervision of an attorney. In most climes, the paralegals work strictly under the supervision of attorneys and cannot work on their own. Their role is strictly complimentary to that of the legal practitioner.
The term paralegal always raises questions in the minds of legal practitioners and as such, members of this profession have taken various positions as to the use of this term. They have asked several questions as to the relevance and the role of the paralegal to the legal profession. The paralegals‘ role if likened to the role of the paramedics within the medical profession will be better appreciated. Jordan7 in her work states thus ―Just as paramedics
possess specialized medical skills, but work under the direction of medical doctors, paralegals fill a similar role in the practice of law‖.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The development occurring within the Legal Profession and affected by global trends necessitates the study of the new trend called paralegals. This trend is to promote and ensure that justice is accessed in accordance with the provisions of the Law, which necessitates this Research. The fact that the legal profession is still unable to meet the needs of providing justice particularly to the indigent persons and the advent of a new set called paralegals necessitates this research.
The traditional form of legal practice obtained in Nigeria will largely determine the status and recognition of the paralegal profession. The Nigerian legal system has no option than to re-align with current practices to take advantage of the current global trend/practices since no legal system can continuously exist and sustain itself without the international laws and practices infiltrating and determining its relevance. Therefore, the infiltration of these
paraprofessionals called paralegals cannot be undermined. Even though the term is relatively new to the legal profession, they have existed and evolved from the following categories of legal service providers; like legal secretaries, court clerks/registrars, research assistant, police prosecutors, law librarians and others working in the legal department that are non-lawyers. They have also existed within the non-governmental segment in Nigeria.
These groups of persons have over the years worked on a wide variety of legal specialties such as law firms, companies, real estate, non-governmental organizations, judiciary, and so on. These groups of persons work under the legal practitioner‘s supervision, and thus can do several work assigned to them such as legal research, drafting, negotiating contracts, mediation in rural communities‘ and so on.8 However, there are areas strictly reserved for legal practitioners such as litigation, interviewing clients, giving legal advice, establishing client-attorney relations, setting legal fees and so on.
In spite of all these functions, the paralegal profession is still faced with several challenges.
These include but not limited to the following issues:
(a) Who is a paralegal within the Nigerian Legal Profession?
(b) Are paralegals an identifiable and a relevant group of legal workers within the Nigerian legal system? Are they recognized and accepted by legal practitioners?
(c) What is their role within the legal system?
(d) Do they provide legal services or carry out strictly administrative task alone?
(e) What is the scope and nature of their work if they provide legal services?
(f) Do they provide legal services under the supervision of legal practitioners or on their
(g) Are they an important component of the legal system?
(h) Do they have legal basis for their role or is there any statutory provision establishing
(i) What are the reasons for non-recognition and acceptance of paralegals by legal practitioners?
(j) Are they alternative legal service providers?
(k) Do they aid access to justice delivery?
(l) Is their role a complementary one to the legal practitioner or can their role be likened to that of the paramedics within the medical profession?
Research in this area is imperative; this is because of paralegal incursion into the legal profession and need to examine the legal framework that provides for the services of the new legal adjuncts, who are gradually gaining relevance and recognition globally. Primarily, the general objectives of this study are as follows:
a. To examine the concept ―paralegal‖, discuss the nature, function and evolution of paralegals generally and in Nigeria in particular.
b. To examine the structure of the legal profession and the legal framework or otherwise /placement of paralegals in the legal profession.
c. To examine the function of paralegals in the administration of justice.
d. To establish the legal basis for the paralegals roles and duties. It evaluates their roles as alternative legal service providers and the nature of their services in justice delivery.
e. To establish some findings (prospect, problems, challenges), to makes suggestions as to the need to embrace the global change in Nigeria and inculcate them into our legal system. To proffer recommendations aimed at recognizing them and regulating the paralegal profession in Nigeria.
1.4 JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY
There is no doubt that the legal profession is continuously affected by global development. With this development, it is gradually moving away from its conservative nature. However, with the current global trend the legal profession must embrace the various changes now associated with legal practice. Legal practitioners in developed and developing countries alike are now realizing that the use of paralegals in substantive legal tasks gives them time to focus on tasks that require their expertise. It is therefore hoped that this study will help to spread a greater awareness of the relevance/roles and duties of paralegals within our legal system. This is imperative in a democratic and developing society like Nigeria where everybody‘s contribution is important. For these reasons, judges, lawyers, students, community leaders, non-governmental Organization‘s and everyone in charge of providing access to justice would find this work relevant, handy and practicable.
1.5 SCOPE OF THE RESEARCH
The study will concern itself primarily with examining the concept and functions of paralegals as an emerging trend, a desirable legal adjunct and legal assistants within the legal profession in Nigeria.
1.6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The research methodology for this topic ‘‘Examination of the functions of paralegals under the Nigerian legal system‘‘ adopts the doctrinal methods to identify and gather relevant materials and information. This study involves the gathering of information from primary materials like Statutes, Case law, and secondary materials like Textbooks, Articles, and Journals.The research relies on both primary and secondary sources of data. Data‘s collected are used for appraising the impediment to the roles of paralegals in Nigeria. Relevant available
literatures were referenced. Finally, the research draws from the first hand experience of the researcher acquired from inspiration and insights in the training of paralegals in the National Innovation Diploma Programme of Kaduna Polytechnic.
1.7 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Information contained in this study will be of benefit to members of the legal profession generally. The information analysed will serve as a basis for making the paraprofessional a recognized group within our legal system. It will emphasis the relevance of this group of professionals. This study will also benefit indigent people, rural dwellers as they can access justice easily through paralegals. This is because the study will highlight the relevance of their roles in poor communities in Nigeria.
1.8 LITERATURE REVIEW
The importance of paralegals as legal adjuncts and as persons that do aid access to justice particularly in developing countries where lawyers are typically concentrated in urban population centres and commercial hubs cannot be overemphasized. Thus, the need to meet the demand for justice and legal services at the rural areas and to indigent persons is very critical to modern legal practice and access to justice. An area that a number of researchers (foreign) have delved into, but very few have been recorded in relation to Nigeria. Instead, the few Nigerian writers on paralegals have only written training manuals in this regard. This study reviews some of such literatures and other literatures on paralegalism generally.