EXAMINATION OF THE FUNCTIONS OF PARALEGALS UNDER THE NIGERIAN LEGAL SYSTEM

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EXAMINATION OF THE FUNCTIONS OF PARALEGALS UNDER THE NIGERIAN LEGAL SYSTEM

ABSTRACT

The concept of paralegal though not a new one in developed region, it is a novel onewithin Africa particularly in Nigeria. They are legal adjuncts within the legal industry carrying out certain functions that are responsive to the need of themoment. It is important to note that they can only function under the supervision of a legal practitioner. The advent of this group in developed nations was to fill the gap that was existing in accessing justice and delivery of legal services particularly to indigent persons. In developing countries in Africa, several reasons have been advanced for the emergence of this group of professionals. The reoccurring and very prominent reasons is the need to provide access to justice and the delivery of legal services at a very affordable rate to the urban poor, indigent persons and rural populace. The research therefore examined paralegals and their function under the Nigerian Legal System, the history of this group, their role and relevance in the administration of justice and to the legal industry in Nigeria. The major challenge of awareness, recognition, and acceptability plaguing it was discussed. Another challenge of regulating these paraprofessionals was
highlighted to reduce or remove completely the incidences of impersonation of lawyers. This highlighted the paradigm shift in the legal industry globally and the need to embrace this trend and ensure it is aligned to suit the Nigeria Legal system. Presently the norm in some African countries and in Nigeria is that paralegals function through nongovernmental organizations, though important to state that the Federal Government of Nigeria in the bid to widen tertiary education and promote vocational and technical education at that level established programmes /courses in that line one of which is National Innovation Diploma in Paralegal Studies. In view of the challenges identified, several recommendations were proffered such as the need for the Nigerian 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 nonlawyers 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

EXAMINATION OF THE FUNCTIONS OF PARALEGALS UNDER THE NIGERIAN LEGAL SYSTEM

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