Requirements to Become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)
Having stated the foregoing, we should examine the criteria to merit the much esteemed award.
- To become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, an applicant must be a citizen of Nigeria.
- He must have a post-call standing of at least 10 years. If you are not a Lawyer yet, read: How to Become a Lawyer in Nigeria
- Before you become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, you must be of good character and of impeccable integrity.
- An applicant must register for the award with a non-refundable fee of #300 000 (Three hundred thousand naira).
- He must submit to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee a list of ten judges of superior courts of record before whom he has appeared and argued important cases. The Committee will select any three of those judges to give testimonial statements about the applicant.
- He must also submit a list of colleagues with whom he has handled cases. Three of whom will be selected to give testimonial statements about him.
- An applicant must submit the particulars of contested cases in which he personally handled: 8 judgments of the High Court, 6 judgments of the Court of Appeal and 3 judgments of the Supreme Court. But where he appeared only before the Supreme Court, he will be required to submit 6 judgments of the Supreme Court.
- An applicant must show evidence of payment of practising fee and membership dues to his local branch of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) for at least 10 years preceding the year of applying for the award of SAN.
- He must also show evidence of the payment of income tax for at least 3 years preceding his application.
- The Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) has a duty to inspect the applicant’s firm to assess: the size and quality of his library, the number and competence of staff and the space and quality of other facilities in the firm.
- An applicant must show evidence of having rendered pro bono cases to indigent clients as a form of community service.
- For academics in law, at least 20 copies of outstanding published legal works must be presented to the Committee.
- Academics must also show that their works are published by reputable publishers whose reputation shall be assessed and determined by the academic sub-committee of the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC).
Indeed without hard work and discipline, it is difficult to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Every year, hundreds of ambitious lawyers apply but only a handful get the award.
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For instance in 2016, more than 400 applied but only 21 were successful. This has often caused mild protests among junior lawyers who insist that the award be abolished because it is against the principles of equality, fair trade and a level playing ground and therefore, oppressive.
Some lawyers have also decried the selection process has being excessively and unnecessarily strict in that even when the number of eligible applicants exceeds the number required, the Committee still picks its number.
For instance, if 100 lawyers are found to be eligible for the award but the Committee intends to pick only 20. What happens to the remaining 80 when 20 are picked?
How in fact does the Committee pick 20 eligible applicants from 100 eligible ones? This will do doubt create room for lobby and should be addressed by the appropriate authorities. It is suggested that the requirements be made sterner so that if 100 lawyers qualify, all of them should be awarded SAN regardless of the Committee’s intended number.
Admittedly, it is safe to assume that the Committee aims keenly at preserving the prestige of the rank and the profession at large by imposing stern restrictions and this is commendable.
Even after becoming a SAN, one can still be stripped of the title for any alleged misconduct pending the determination of any disciplinary action.
One of such cases is that of Chief Ajibola Aribisala SAN who was suspended in 2013 from using his title for 20 months for allegations of flagrant breach of professional ethics and professional misconduct.