Law students of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) have been advised to equip themselves to harness emerging opportunities in the legal profession as Ghana and the rest of Africa seek to fully operationalise the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Speaking at the second edition of the UPSA Law Fair and Mentorship Conference, Yorm Ama Abledu, a law lecturer at the UPSA Law School, said the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will open the floodgates for the services of legal practitioners on the continent.
As a result, she believes aspiring lawyers must adequately position themselves by specialising in fairly untapped areas such as arbitration and dispute resolution, intellectual property law, and regulatory compliance.
Ms. Abledu, was delivering a keynote address on the topic “The AfCFTA and Future of the Legal Profession”.
“The [AfCFTA] agreement establishes a dispute settlement mechanism that is designed to resolve disputes between member states and between private parties,” she said. “This mechanism will be crucial in ensuring that the free trade area functions smoothly and that disputes are resolved quickly and fairly.
“As a result, there is likely to be an increase in demand for lawyers with expertise in dispute resolution as well as for arbitrators and mediators. So as young lawyers, I will strongly advise that you cultivate an interest in these areas.”
Dean of the UPSA Law School, Prof Ernest Kofi Abotsi, stressed that with the emergence of artificial intelligence and the removal of legal licensure restrictions by the AfCFTA, law practitioners will have to build their capacity to embrace the new dynamics.
“It is clear that we have gotten to a point where sooner than later lawyers will be scrambling for jobs because indeed many aspects of legal practice lend themselves to mechanical work like documentary reviews, where AI will soon take over when properly instructed,” Prof Abotsi said.
“If law firms continue to do things the way they were done 35 or 50 years ago, clearly we will be behind time,” he warned.
Prof Abotsi said that the UPSA law fair and mentorship conference presents an opportunity for practitioners to reflect on some of these challenging issues while connecting law students with legal professionals and providing valuable insights into the legal industry.
The President of the Ghana Bar Association, Mr Yaw Acheampong Boafo, said the Association recognises the changing face of law practice in the country and therefore urges the future generation of lawyers to be innovating.
He emphasised that there is a need for aspiring and lawyers to equip themselves to deal with the challenges and effects of the AfCFTA on legal practice and services in Ghana.
The Law Fair and Mentorship Conference provided an opportunity for law firms and legal organizations to showcase their work and provide information to students about their areas of practice.
Students had the chance to meet with representatives from a range of organizations, learn about their work, and explore potential career opportunities.
The event, attended by hundreds of students and legal professionals, was put together by the UPSA Law School in collaboration with the Students Representative Council (SRC) of the Ghana School of Law.