Requirements of a Drafting Office
Note that a poor working environment can impair job satisfaction and lead to rapid depletion of personnel.
In a democratic set-up with separation of powers, drafting service is provided at two levels viz: the legislative and the executive levels. This is because the legislature can introduce bills on their own through a sponsored member’s bill or one comes from the executive. This process applies at all three levels of government i.e Federal (National Assembly), States (House of Assembly) and Local government (Legislative Council).
The need of each State for drafting service at two levels (State House of Assembly level and State Ministry of Justice level) could be stressful on the little skilled manpower available within the country.
Since law or legislation constitutes the hub of the nation, little need be said of the importance of infrastructures, which must be put in place to create the enabling environment to facilitate the drafters in efficient performance of their work.
Apart from providing adequate facilities and very good working condition for the drafter, a good drafting office must satisfy a number of requirements.
- Personnel: This can be divided into two.a. Legal Personnel – these are the core of experienced drafters and group of understudies.b. Clerical Personnel – these should be efficient and able to cope with overtime work without disrupting regular office schedule.
- The Office: A good office allows for concentration which is vital in the drafting process. Each drafter ought to have privacy and freedom from interruptions. The entire physical infrastructure which goes with an office must also be provided. The furniture must be standard and the cooling system adequate and efficient.
- Conference Room: This is necessary for regular meetings of drafters. Drafting offices normally consist of a reasonably large team of usually not less than twenty lawyers. Therefore it is normal to have a conference room where the drafters and legislative counsel can hold conferences, seminars and meetings which are sometimes necessary in the efficient performance of their job.
- Information Technology: A drafting office must be equipped with modern technological facilities. Each drafter must be computer literate and have a computer to work with. The office should be automated with modern telecommunication facilities such as a digital telephone and Internet, e-mail facilities, photocopying machine, etc.
- Well-Trained Supporting Staff: These include secretaries, clerks, office assistants, editors, etc. The staff strength depends on the size of the office and the volume of work. Staff members are employed either as employee of the public service; on contractual basis; full-time; part-time; or secondment.
- Library: A good library is an essential aid to the drafter. The drafting office must have a well-stocked library. A large collection of precedent books including standard precedents from other jurisdictions should be provided on the shelves. Texts on legislative drafting should form part of the collection. The drafters must have direct access to all laws of the country whether Federal or State laws to enable them work efficiently. The library must have law reports, law journals, periodicals and standard legal and legislative dictionaries. It is essential that the library is fully computerized so that the drafters right inside their different offices can access the library through their computers.
Organising a Drafting Office
Majority of drafting offices worldwide are attached to the various parliaments or Ministry of Justice as the case may be. Canada and Nigeria are good examples of this. However, in countries like United States of America and United Kingdom, the office (of the parliamentary counsel) is independent. Where the office is attached to the Parliament and Ministry or Department of Justice, like the case of Manitoba Drafting Office in Canada, drafters of the office draft both government (executive) and private members’ bills.
In Nigeria, the Drafting department attached to the Federal Ministry of Justice is only responsible for drafting government bills. Similarly, the Drafting departments attached to the various States’ Ministry of Justice only handle government bills.
Also the Legal Services department of the National Assembly assists in amending government bills. It is also responsible for putting finishing touches to government bills for onward transmission to the President for his assent. The Department equally drafts Members bills and private members’ bills.
Similarly at the State level, the Legal department attached to the various States’ House of Assembly is responsible for drafting Members’ bills and Private members’ bills. They also put finishing touches to government bills for onward transmission to the Governor for his assent.
In some legislative drafting offices, the Chief Legislative Counsel is the head. He supervises the staff and reports to the Assistant Deputy Attorney General (Legal Services branch) administrative and to the Deputy Attorney General on the legislative programme (Canadian reporting structure).
In Nigeria, the drafting offices attached to the Federal Ministry of Justice and the States’ Ministry of Justice are headed by Directors. They report to the Permanent Secretary and Solicitor-General of the
Also, the Drafting offices (Departments) attached to the National Assembly or State Houses of Assembly are headed by Directors.
3.4 Drafting Instructions
Drafting instructions are received in the form of – memoranda to cabinet, draft bills or request by members of the legislature. Authority to draft bills can come in different forms and could come in any of the forms above. This will be considered in detail in the next course.
3.5Functioning of the Drafting Process
Drafters consult with instructing officers by phone, at meetings and through exchange of annotated drafts.
In some jurisdictions, instructing officers are present throughout the drafting process. In other jurisdictions, the presence of the instructing officers depends on several considerations. These are, the nature, complexity and urgency of the bill; whether the policy is well defined and what stage the drafting is. Sometimes their presence would be determined by the drafters, officers’ preferences, workload and schedule.
In some jurisdictions, drafters work alone but may be supervised by senior drafters. In Nigeria, legislative drafters work as a team.
In conclusion, a well equipped drafting office is a pre-requisite to having good laws being drafted. If laws are good laws, the citizens easily obey them and this makes the members of the society live in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility which creates development.
In this unit you have learnt the importance, requirements and organisation of a drafting office. You should now be able to evaluate the situation in Nigeria to see whether these requirements are being met.