EXAMINATION OF THE FUNCTIONS OF PARALEGALS UNDER THE NIGERIAN LEGAL SYSTEM
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. 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.I 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. This nature consequently, made lawyers capture and control the market place or legal services, 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.A 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.