Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Maybe the greeting was too enthusiastic but it is hard to restrain my joy at a camel to dump work on.
‘So, what are you working on? Which is ‘polite-speak’ for ‘you don’t seem busy’.
‘Nothing really. I haven’t really done much work since we resumed. ‘
Perfect! It’s hard to wipe the grin from my face.
‘So, would you like to work on [the ‘interesting’ matter]?’
‘That is what I wrote my long essay on!’
She is excited. I am thrilled. The poor child is yet to learn.
‘I assume you are interested?’
She finishes in five hours, I review it for two. Work is done and turned in to Posh-Tall with a flourish.
Sometimes, I overwhelm myself. Most times, I am just lucky but who is counting?
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
One of the associates has an annoying Blackberry addiction – and my upset has nothing to do with the fact that I can’t afford one. It really didn’t annoy me until recently, with little work to do and counsel are engaged in bonding and building friendships. BB addict will divert attention to himself, in the middle of poolroom gossip and scurry to the phone like he was paid for reading messages or that the message would self-destruct in two seconds. Everyone knows lawyers like to hear themselves speak without interruption, whether in court or in the pool room. I am a lawyer, so go figure.
BB addict apparently takes his habit home with him. I mistakenly overheard him complaining to Groveller at lunch that his wife accused him of Tiger-resque tendencies, because he was always fiddling on his phone. He took some time whining about how work took so much of his time and how absolutely impossible it would be to play at Tiger, (even if he wanted to) because of the workload etc. All through his lunch therapy, he was fiddling with his phone. Groveller is too diplomatic to point out the obvious reasons for his wife’s suspicions.
Monday, December 21, 2009
So, we stay here dedicated to justice, fairness and billable hours. We are responsible, like that. Unfortunately, our best laid ideals have largely failed since we haven’t been doing a lot of work. Besides the enjoyable gossip and Facebook, I haven’t really done much work. Gloater and three other associates are suspiciously ill and are not coming to work.
Despite these reasons and many more (which I am sure I can find), I am far from disgruntled. I am into being happy and the spirit of all that is merry, good and glittering. I also hear salaries will be paid before Friday, the 25th, which also makes life beautiful.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Fela’s wives were co-fighters in the fight against ‘the corrupt African government’
I like the fact that we celebrate our dead heroes. While recognition is good for those whose hearts still thump, remembering the dead comes to me as recognition of their art and usually devoid sycophancy. In this regard, I salute Najite’s perspective of Fela!, the Broadway musical.
I am however cynical (maybe a little prejudiced but how well can a non-Nigerian tell a Nigerian story? Eh? For instance, while I respect Karl Maier’s journalistic objectivity and integrity, I can’t get past the factual inaccuracies (admittedly slight) and the errors in interpretation in his ‘This House Has Fallen’.
Africa tells Africa’s story best - Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ and many more; Chiamanda’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’; Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s ‘Weep Not Child’; Samuel Johnson’s ‘The History of the Yorubas’ Oginda Odinga’s ‘Not Yet Uhuru’; etc.
I think it’s an attempt to retell art. Someone (interpret as: ‘Nigerian’) should rewrite Fela as it is.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Counsel is two seats away from me but that does not stop him from placing three legal dictionaries between me and the judge and four volumes of Sasegbon in front of the other lawyer next to me. Fairly enough, he can barely see over the law reports supported by a bulky file in front of him. I am far from upset at his intrusive obstruction since it nicely shields my novel from the bench.
‘Yes, My Lord. The matter is slated for hearing of our motion.’
The court is eyeing the lawyer’s threatening mini-library cum artillery. His Lordship tries again –
‘And you say it is an oral application?’
Everyone knows that prospects of an oral application are less threatening with implied brevity – in simple English: bring down the court’s guards by hiding the bulky reports under the table. Bulky Counsel seems clueless.
‘Yes, My Lord, it will take a maximum of thirty minutes’.
He just made it worse. Thirty minutes of writing is enough to terrorise any judge even on the day before a long weekend.
‘Counsel will file a written address. Matter is adjourned to ...’
‘As your Lordship pleases.’
On our way out, Bulky Counsel – Muktar – winks at Gloater and I. Muktar had gambled on ‘convincing’ the court to give him another adjournment without having to ask for it. Our witness had gone AWOL and the Court had threatened to dismiss our matter at the last adjourned date. With the witness still AWOL; Muktar filed some flimsy motion intending to withdraw it at the next adjourned date.
Lawyers are evil. Very Evil.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Caveat: These thoughts revolve around bits of gossip I heard from someone who heard it from someone else and far from being a participant in mindless gossip, I only listened since it would have been rude to ignore the story provider. The point is – this story is absolutely a discredited inadmissible yet irresistible hearsay. Really! Here goes:
Locus I hear, was in a court in one of the states in the ‘South-South’, the conservative term for the Niger-Delta. The court was hearing evidence from a ‘dangerously looking’ (not my words) accused person, when a series of loud bangs were heard. My informant swears that the original storyteller said that the noise sounded like the AK-47s bandied in Rambo and Independence Day. In any case, it must have been threatening enough for His Lordship to seek protection under the solid wooden barriers of the bench.
A few minutes later, the (apparently brave) court orderly discovered that the noise was caused by fireworks, the popular ‘banger’ used by children. The culprits were not found so there was no talk of contempt charges.
Monday, November 30, 2009
My friend spent the better time of my evening complaining about how he was overworked at his law firm; how annoying it felt to intensively research and yet not get a whiff of the juicy litigation bits; and how he felt close to victimised and bullied by his seniors. Just last Friday, a senior associate assigned a thick file to him to prepare the notice of appeal, which ‘must’ be filed by Monday.
The poor naive child.
I mentally adjusted my halo as I castigated him for being ungrateful of the capacity to complain about a job and even work to do in ‘these credit crunched times’. Besides everyone knows that junior associates are recruited for their ability to work as law-donkeys and far from victimised, he amounts to a mere statistic in the thousands slugging their way up the ladder at law factories over the world.
After about twenty minutes of continuous reiteration of his good luck at being ‘chosen’ to play donkey and making shameless analogies to the clichéd half-full glass; he naively believed me, said ‘thank you’; with renewed thoughts of being the ‘good associate’.
Of course, I felt superior-ly secure in my good deed. I didn’t mention my thoughts - only thick people get assigned files thick enough to warrant charges of torture and cruel punishment to trees. With a little time my friend would learn that expression about working smart not hard should be taken at its literal best and he would hone his expertise of toeing the fine line between hardworking and lazy. It’s a lesson to be learned first hand.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
All the best to the ‘younger ones’ (yes, I absolutely lurve saying that!).
One advice though – there really is nothing you can do now. Brace yourselves. There are bad times ahead – slugging it out at the bottom, learning and being bossed around. Ha.
That thing is – I AM NOW OFFICIALLY SOMEONE ELSE’S SENIOR!!!
I feel like another word for glee, like the EFCC Chairman after the Attorney General signed the fiat to prosecute the Famous Five.
After spending one year scrapping my way at the bottom of the ladder, trudging heavy files, being the one to do the dirty annoying work, generally slugging it all out for oxygen with the life beneath the ladder among other revolting activities, the firm has employed a newer wig aka junior at the bar aka rookier rookie aka bully-worthy material, among other adjectives. Finally, I take one step up the rung of the ladder, earning the right to superciliously refer work to someone else and more importantly, never ever take minutes!
Of course, I am thrilled.
I started sharpening my Draco tendencies this morning by ‘delegating’ a long overdue file audit to rookier A, whose pseudonym I have not managed to think of. He just finished with NYSC from a state in the South-South and has not yet exhausted the overall eagerness of a mind fed on Grishams and The Practice, which works for me.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
That was (or was meant to be) a rhetorical statement, heralding my gripe for the work dumped on my table, this fine Tuesday morning. Just as I finished typo-checking Muktar’s work, one of the office assistants, brought a file to me, with Posh-tall’s calligraphy – ‘Prepare the opinion’.
It is a matter I am sure I don’t know anything about – something on mining rights. I had to run a spell-check on ‘mining’ since I wasn’t even sure how many ‘n’s it had! One the one hand, I am thrilled at the prospect of learning something new, on the other, I worry about the prospects of advising on contracts worth my yearly salary in American dollars.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Whoever thought about this idea must have underestimated the power of ‘true’ legal training, where the better lawyer contests every fact including the shade of the sun on the date the agreement was first thought about, and has countless skills in frustrating the matter by repeated adjournments. A ‘proper lawyer’ knows that settlement is for losers and will ridicule any attempt to reach a solution that does not involve total destruction of the opponent – why preach when we can do carnage and destruction and get paid for it?
At least those are most the lessons I may be learning from law practice. Ghandi and I are handling a six-year old arbitral matter. It used to be handled by another firm until the client debriefed the first firm and handed it over to ours last month. While reading through the case file, I discovered that parties had actually decided to settle about four and a half years ago but after some exchange of correspondence, ‘settlement had broken down’, a synonym for a much longer winded phrase – the-lawyers-would-not-settle-since-settling-would-mean-a-lower-percentage-for-fees.
Due to the limitation laws, the award may not even be enforceable since the agreement was not ‘under seal’ or by deed – which is another formality which rationale still eludes my ignorant self.
Don’t we all love the law and the ass?
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I know that counsel A’s lead counsel has not gone on lesser Hajj but is in Dubai for an extended vacation. I know that because the lead counsel is Muktar, one of the senior associates at the firm and I am Counsel A. I just lied. There goes yet another piece of my soul to the Devil.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Did I mention this? Vacation is over? Lawyers are once again being friendly to court clerks; everyone is tipping the court's security; there’s increased acrimony as interns are complaining about having to carry heavy files; seniors are issuing memos to express their displeasure over badly written briefs; everything is back to normal.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
After another bit of pacifying, he finally signed it and left the office. Ghandi suggests that I sent a bill on an hourly rate and request for a deposit on account. I intend to.
Monday, September 14, 2009
However, I have discovered sundry uses of paper. Ordinarily looking paper, in the right volume, bound in branded (sober looking, of course) jackets can be transformed into a high-utility courtroom accessory. Better still, since few have the patience to read through more than ten lines without their minds wandering to lunch, papers, when filled with appropriate multiple words, provide a ready logical excuse to bill more – the client is impressed at the amount of ‘industry’ gone into filling the sheets with ink, the lawyer’s ego is massaged at the amount of paper he has filled; everyone is happy and the world is one step closer to world peace.
Flowing from my inherent goodness and strong determination to be a ‘good lawyer’, which in my mind, is a mix between Ayo Obe and the late Gani; and my strong love for the use of technology supported by my lack of aptitude (read: laziness) for carrying anything heavier than my phone and flash drive; all clothed in my belief in the inherent integrity of all, I have scorned such underhand moves *insert additional self righteous phrases* of filling paper for less than what is right and true.
At least until today. My paper phobia almost put me into some trouble. I have been working on an agreement with a client who would instruct and reinstruct by telephone. Usually, I’ll send an email to restate her verbal instructions for record purposes. Some time during negotiations, the other party requested for certain amendments to the agreement, which I discussed with the client by telephone. It was mainly a commercial decision and after I explained the consequences to the client, she agreed to incorporate these amendments. Perhaps, she did not think it through. For some silly and probably lazy reason, I did not send a letter. Just as we were about to forward the final copy of the agreement for execution, Posh-tall had the good sense to question a particular clause. She calls the client by telephone. After two minutes of explaining the consequences of the clause to the client, the client claims that I never mentioned the clause to her.
Posh tall is wise enough to realise the client may not have been truthful but blames me for not having a written commitment. She is quite right.
Lesson to learn: baring any invasion of cockroaches, the paper will outlast us all.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I also liked what Gani for what he did for ‘lawyer’ image – knowledgeable human rights activist.
The point is – I have some history with the late Gani and I have a reason to grieve. What I can’t fathom is the sudden love and adoration for a man who was underappreciated while alive. Everyone at work is saying something about the loss of Gani and its impact on the Nigerian legal sector. I find it weird that even Groveller and Muktar who used to scorn Gani’s law reports are close to suggesting he be made a saint of law reporting. Perhaps we prefer our heroes when they are dead and buried and far away from troubling our consciences.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
‘Hello my dear!’
‘My dear’ is said with an arm draped over Totally-Together-Chick’s right shoulder. I almost don’t notice the typical Nigerian patronising honorific. Then again, a number of old big bellied clients assume they are witty, funny and ‘my dear’ is an extension of their undeniable charm. Many of us don’t agree but live with the harmless illusion – after all, we get practice by laughing at partners’ really dry jokes. In fact, having to laugh at dry jokes is better and more dignified than being expected to make coffee by some client.
TTC looks a little startled as she moves away from the offending arm from her shoulder and looks like she’s contemplating whether an arm on her shoulder was sufficient provocation to clumsily spill her black coffee on the client’s white agbada. Ghandi notices ‘the move’ and my discomfort and smoothly steps in between TTC and the white agbada, thereby doing his good deed for the day and keeping the world from TTC’s ire.
I try hard but my smile shines through. White agabda notices my amusement. All through the meeting, I add the honorific ‘sir’ to every sentence to assure him of my deference and acknowledgement of his stature and superiority, etc, and keep my shoulder far far away.
Monday, September 7, 2009
No matter how much we complain and whinge about the law and long hours; the illusions of self importance that comes with passing Law School sometimes makes up for it. Better still, few people have any idea about what first-year associates really do – take minutes until fingers ache, write letters to clients informing them that the court did not sit again, get harassed for mistakes no one wants to take the blame for, carry out annoying research for a brief you’ll probably never see, review agreements with the sole aim of spotting typos and nothing else. That is close to state secret. Of course, I don’t intend to tell anyone either.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Slowly but surely, I am moving from note-taker to note-taker’s supervisor. The note-taking position has been delegated to a new lawyer undergoing the NYSC programme with Lagbaja, Tamedo & Co. Of course, I’m nice and sweet and far from using my lofty position on a few inches above the ladder unfairly.
Clients are a ‘society-lady’ (magazines make it sound like a job) and her son. She’s a young widow, with no source of livelihood (unless you count continent-hopping and gold-wearing). Her Lagos big boy (another job, I guess) husband died recently leaving his heirs and hangers-on at the mercy of angry creditors and no will. The creditor-banks are jointly claiming against his assets.
Grey-stripes thinks that since the loan was taken by a company formed by the deceased person, there might be a chance of salvaging some of the late man’s assets and leaving something for the family. I am actually sorry for her – she’s seems hopeless, the kind of people the law should protect despite their ignorance.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Counsel rarely screams the ‘80s movie’s ‘Objection My Lord!’ anymore as the witness’ statement on oath is filed along with other originating process. In practice, the statement is usually drafted by the lawyer (who was taught to put facts ‘favourably’ at Law School), though the crux of the statement is the witness’. Most witnesses sign the prepared statement without reading it and forget about it, some ummh and aahh over every word just in case the lawyer is a conspiracy theorist, few scan-read and sign. Today’s witness is a ‘most’.
The matter is for trial for the first time after four years of pre-trial, extensions and transfer from judge to judge. The Defendant had served an interlocutory application on us a few weeks ago. Ghandi suspects it’s another attempt to stall the trial but comes to court anyway with the client (and sole witness). We are not prepared for trial and we are surprised when the Defendant withdraws his pending interlocutory application and the Court decides to proceed to trial
Ghandi tries to ask for an adjournment but her Ladyship is ‘not inclined to’ and orders that our witness be sworn in and adopt his statement.
Proficient Ghandi begins, ‘Did you make this statement?’
Witness looks at the first page, then, ‘No.’
Ghandi pretends not to hear the ‘no’; Defendant’s Counsel is chuckling and I’m trying all the body language I know without throwing a stone at his head.
Ghandi tries again- ‘Mr, [Witness], you will remember you made a statement at our office…’
Counsel to the Defendant jumps off, emphasising that the witness had already answered the question; Ghandi interjects, explaining that the witness is not prepared, etc, while I develop a headache. They squabble for a few minutes before the judge magnanimously adjourns.
I’m barely one step in the lobby when Senior chuckles-
‘Nice design Rookie’
I am thinking - ‘Oh, well, well of course, I always look nice…’ then I realise it’s a plain white shirt that didn’t have any designs when I ironed it - And Senior will rather choke on a bitter-leaf stalk mixed with bird droppings, than say something nice about me.
Lekki-British eye-points to the huge stain on my shirt and at the second my neck turns; I know that the diagonal dirt streaks on my shirt are from the bus seat. Typically, I must have plunked down on the seat with no thoughts to wipe the seat down.
I’m a firm BRT-lover with queues that mean you don’t have to literally catch the bus. It’s also mostly time-effective when it finally shows up and ‘time-effective’ means I get an extra hour of sleep - which generally puts me in a good mood and reduces my caffeine cravings by one cup.
Today’s not one of my ‘Go-BRT!’ days though.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
*Insert: eh ya, do, pele, sannu, sorry or other suitable empathetic murmur in any language*
(I’m shameless like that)
To be fair, no one actually told me to use up my luxury hours, sitting on the same chair I sit on Mondays through Fridays but ‘no one’ also explained how I’ll draft a brief of Argument for a matter when Grey-stripes (yes, the RMD-look-alike partner is back) sent the file on Friday afternoon, with ‘Send in by Tuesday’ on the red post-it attached to the file.
Of course, I smiled and emailed something nice and sweet about being thankful for the opportunity etc and just about everything I didn’t mean.
Anyways, I’m stuck here for the weekend in the ‘pursuit of knowledge’ and ‘professorial research’. I’m getting a feel of contradictory Court of Appeal decisions and deciding on which the direction I want to flog the law.
Friday, June 5, 2009
She looks over Clara’s originating process, makes a few edits and asks me to file.
I see Freckles at lunch. My crush’s gone but I figure it will do some good chatting over the meal, so I share his table.
We get talking while I wait for lunch. He’s on a matter whose judge has been transferred to another division. There’s a subsisting order mandating the defendant to pay the judgement sum to the court’s account. Since the matter is to start de novo, the defendants claim they are no longer under any obligation to pay the amount.
The law is that a trial de novo wipes the slate clean - all previous actions taken on the matter are deemed of no consequence and trial starts anew. What seems unclear is the status of interlocutory injunctions. The practical effect of wiping the slate clean is that where for instance, a Mareva injunction has been granted, the party against whom the order was granted can move the assets from the jurisdiction of the court.
So much for precedents.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
At 8.30am, I am in the court premises, skirt suit sharp, heels at right height, bib tucked in to hint at dignity, the only thing missing is my gown floundering in the wind, but it’s with my wig in my stylish carry-all. After a few minutes of walking about trying to find the court, I ask another wig that looks like me.-
‘Oh. That’s in TBS’
‘I mean the Commercial Division of the Lagos State High Court.
‘Yes, they use the building at TBS’
He hurries away and I am sweating.
I rush to ask another lawyer whose confirmation makes me wish I am incapable of secreting bodily fluids through thick skin.
My heels are uncomfortable now but I run out and grab a cab.
By some miracle, traffic on Third Mainland Bridge is light and I get to TBS at about 10am. Miracle two - Court has not sat.
I decide not to mention one word at the office - some incidents are best kept hush-hush.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The judge who is newly appointed is not amused at counsel’s condescending behaviour. Motion is for stay of proceedings while he appeals the earlier ruling against interlocutory injunction. I think counsel’s upset that the earlier application for interlocutory application was refused based on a shoddy application and unintelligible arguments. He must have delegated it to a junior and did not check it before it was filed.
Today, he’s decided to do the job himself and is not doing much with his impatience and lack of decorum. Usually, the court will allow counsel to move on the terms of the already submitted written argument but the judge is not willing to let it slide so quickly and easily. After about twenty minutes of spit and arguing, the order is refused. Ha.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
She’s perfect for my ‘sore ears’.
I am excited but can’t scream properly so I make do with some quiet ‘Heeey!’ before we attempt a minute of girlie catch up.
She’s ‘NYSC-ing’ somewhere in Kogi and just finished Law School.
‘So how were the results?’
‘Umm, they gave me a pass o.’
-Naturally, in Nigeria, you ‘make’ a First or Second Class Upper but they ‘give’ you anything lower.
My friend’s really smart and we can’t understand why she graduated with a pass. I try to say something nice and ‘exhorting’ but she’s past that.
She’s serving in a bank now and thinks her chances of leaving for law practice just got dimmer. A Law School Pass means she’ll have to be slimmer than the eye of a needle to get into the top law firms that pay well.
I try to convince her on the ‘worthiness’ of law, the career prospects, etc, but I suspect she’s not buying into humble pupilage years.
We agree to meet when she comes to town.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Grisham novel myth - lawyers make lots of money being experienced investigators and often have some lackey in the background to do all the ‘dirty’ research work, while they see clients and spend a few minutes reinforcing the Judge’s opinion of their erudition and inherent smartness.
Grouchy Client’s myth - there’s no point in paying legal fees since lawyers only have to do a copy-and-paste using precedents.
Real life - Everything takes time and ‘everything’ includes out-of-court matters. Going to law school buys a lifetime of research. Even core barrister work is hinged on the pleadings and that takes hours or days of research. Solicitor’s work is worse; one missed single seemingly innocuous line may bring trouble years later when the parties are not so business-gentlemanly.
No, I am not complaining. I actually enjoy spending hours straining my pretty eye-shadowed eyes at prints that do not appreciate the time and drama it takes to get the eye shadow right!
-Making a draft of an agreement on project finance. I’m not half way done. Grouch.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
‘Are you familiar with cheques and how to detect their authenticity?’
CB jumps at this, he can’t wait to ‘tear the witness’ apart.
‘Oh, merely relatively eh? I P-U-T it to you that you are an ignorant officer who wants to destroy my client’s reputation’ (‘put’ comes with some spit)
He looks like the cat who found the cream and is about to start rolling on the floor.
‘I was about to say that I have attended courses on cheque cloning and fraud detection at Switzerland and in Germany. I just came back from the IMF-sponsored six month programme at The Hague solely dedicated to international fraud detection and preventive practices.’
CB must have skipped Evidence 101 - Never ask a question if you don’t know the answer.
‘Oh, so you have enough theoretical experience, eh?’
He actually winks at his client in the dock.
Too late -
‘I was with the Institute for Security Studies, South Africa for two years, then moved to the Interpol for six years where I was team leader in halting the attempt to flood the UAE with fake dinars. I also…’
‘That’s okay! This honourable Court does not need your life history!’
The Bar was in stitches.
Some moments just make it worth it.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Back to the issue, upon due investigation, I verily believe that there’s something going on. They seem to think no one sees their side-long glances and furtive glances at each. Agony-Aunt Rookie sees everything!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
For eleven years, both sides have fought tooth and nail wanting to get the better of each other on a piece of land they probably didn’t want as badly as each other’s throat. They wanted war, blood and victory- in that order. With endless motions to the Supreme Court and back and aided by adjournments and de novos, they have managed to make their lawyers richer.
Finally, after millions on solicitor’s fees they have finally agreed to a settlement, containing the same terms that were suggested at the very beginning.
Our matter is the third on the cause list right after some entertainment -
‘Milady, the defendant just served us with his statement of defence yesterday, leaving us no time to respond. In fact, I had to rush from the Court of Appeal today’
Claimant’s counsel is convincingly wounded. He’s Chief-something and has a ‘listen-to-me’ voice. Regrettably, I have learnt that lawyers know how to tell a story so I can’t (lack the ability to) believe him, but at least he has some of my empathy.
Her Ladyship also seems sympathetic. The Counsel for the matter before this one had appeared without his file. I can sense she’s itching to teach someone a lesson.
‘Counsel for the defendant?’
The other lawyer looks uncomfortable and is about to go on some long-winded tale; ‘My Lord, actually…’
Chief Listen-to-me voice interjects-
‘Milady, I am asking for costs - after all, I am VIP!’
Chief just ‘over-skill’ed.
I think Her Ladyship agrees thinks that was an over-kill and simply ignores Chief and tells them to pick a date for adjournment.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Finally, our matter gets called. Then the lights go out. After another unhurried break, court sits and our matter is adjourned for mention next month.
I am a bit miffed but really, who cares if I am?
Good thing about Magistrate Courts is that counsel are not as formally dressed as in the High Courts. Unfortunately, it also means there’s no robe to hide visual assault. Today, there’s a lawyer wearing gold-coloured shoes that match the weaves glued to her dark hair and huge silver earrings.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
And rather than some pious thought along the lines of praying for the sinner’s mortal soul, my first thought is getting the ‘client’ off the hook on technical grounds!
‘Technically, since it’s already evening, she has been overreached and the injunction cannot take effect.’
I have to remind myself again that weekends are for hibernating and nothing remotely linked to a wig. Weekends are for sleep, slob, Church, see friends who have forgotten that I don’t go to see them, ‘project fame’ (reality TV and a little gossip always does some good), and more sleep… generally.
*Makes note to self-learn to enjoy a joke without lawyer thoughts*
Friday, May 22, 2009
‘Rookie, can I see you in my office now?’
Seating next Plain-short is a ‘miracle’.
Resplendent in aso-ebi (uniform Ankara) is our divorce petitioner (the one that wants N70M for her dog) with her respondent husband. They are batting eyelashes at each other and holding hands like teenagers, although it looks more like one of them has a jelly-spine in need of support.
She wants to withdraw the petition. It turns out their differences were not so irreconcilable.
The N70M puppy? She’s already sent it to her brother ‘who has time to take care of it’!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
‘We’… I feel like a lawyer.
More trouble - TMC has been served with another set of originating processes similar to those we want to settle with SAN-hound. The claimants also want retirement bonus for being loyal cigarette customers for eighteen years. They are asking for about five times as much as SAN-hound’s damages.
I suspect SAN-hound is greedy enough to want to amend his writ and pleadings to increase his client’s claim. Muktar is thinking about damage control. He doesn’t want to be the guard on duty when the ants finish off the carcass.
‘We will respond to their originating process.’
Muktar wants to call their bluff, he thinks they can’t handle the litigation and will only be pressured to settle.
He hands over the already bulky file.
Aaagh! I enjoy law practice blah blah blah.... but when do I get enough free boring me-time?
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
‘I am tired of all these o!’
She sounds worse than the last time we spoke. She’d gone to the Land Planning Board like I advised her to. Though, the governor’s consent was obtained along with other required formalities before her Certificate of Occupancy was issued, she was told that her house was built on land, originally designated as part of a road network. The officer in charge promised to ‘look into’ her case.
She’ll go back next week.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The tattered ones are best and reserved for worship at the legal altar. So, ‘new wig’ in legalese is the synonym for the life beneath the bottom of the pile aka note-taker, bag-carrier and researcher for all the matters no one wants to do. Although, I’m resigned to my young-hood, I‘m thinking of starting a prayer and fast to speed the time that the next set of wigs start to work here.
Hopefully, my prayer will get a laser-time reply, so I get to move one rung up the legal ladder and shed some weight on some unlucky junior.
I admit it - I am as bad as the rest of them.
Monday, May 18, 2009
‘I don’t understand why you can’t make it on time. Anyway, get the ABD file and act on it. You had better get this done before the close of today o.’
The test is delivered with an I-am-your-senior smugness. Speaker and test-provider is who I’ll call ‘Senior’. She is about three years at the Bar. Yours truly, is barely one year.
Posh-Tall sent the file marked Senior and RL but since Senior is a firm believer in delegation; she’s done nothing about it. I’ve already drafted the motion for interlocutory injunction and plan to email it to her this morning after a final edit.
I really want to give her the pleasure of my sarcastic best but my better self prevails.
‘Oh, that, I’ll get it to you this morning’ - with a straight face, not ‘nicey nice’ but ‘good girl’.
I am beginning to suspect, I might just be a descendant of St. Monica of Hippo, patron saint for patience.
Friday, May 15, 2009
She is smallish but very confident. She studied English at the university because she has always loved to write and works in a NGO. She re-tells her story clearly. When she confronted the producer, he dismissed her and claimed that he already had the script three years ago. She wants justice and we finally get to play Voltron.
(*insert signature tune*)
The defender of the universe!
Just before we part at the lobby, she mentions an intellectual property related matter.
Client is accusing a film producer of using her play without her permission. According to her, she gave him her manuscript last year but he had dismissed it as unsuitable. She was however shocked to hear of a movie by the same producer with her story. She seems sure that it’s the same story with basically the same dialogue. L.T is doing it pro bono.
Right now, I‘m writing to inform a client in respect of a name search for an utterly ridiculous name for her hotel- Resthereverywell Ltd. Plain-short will edit and sign through before we send it to the final consumer, along with the bill of charges.
I remember to reply to a text I received from a friend of mine on Monday. I send an email instead and steel myself for the expected round of ‘where have you been’s.
He replies immediately. Friend rescued. You’e got to love technology.
Prof. comes in to my cubicle. She seems distracted and asks if I’ve seen Ghandi around.
‘I think he’s in the library.’
‘Ooh’ and she goes to her floor - not the library.
I smell something or my wild imagination’s going into overdrive again
Her Ladyship is obviously upset and with good reason.
The affidavit is poorly drafted; wrong pronouns, bad grammar and innumerable spelling errors. It’s as though the lawyer made a conscious effort to break as many rules of grammar as he could and pointedly ignored the squiggles Microsoft is so kind to provide with Word.
I had made a similar (though less forceful) remark when I saw it on Monday. It was an affidavit in support of a motion to amend a statement of claim.
Counsel is stammering and was making a bad attempt at explaining why ‘notice’ has a ‘u’ and ‘honourable’ is spelt ‘honoriabl’.
Surprisingly, the motion is granted.
Her Ladyship must have a good heart.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It’s a bail application before a High Court Judge. The applicant is a prominent chief who is accused of stunts that will put all the Yahoozee boys to shame - in legalese, ‘false misrepresentation under s. 419 of the Criminal Code’. Since the law presumes his innocence even though he was caught while attempting to transfer from a Cayman Islands account, he is entitled to apply for bail.
Senior is asking for bail on self-recognition and his bluff is believable as he persuades the Judge. The new wig from the Ministry of Justice is reminding the court that the chief acted as surety for another person who disappeared after bail was granted a few months ago.
Chief got the bail.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
He ends his line with what sounds like a bang on a table, or maybe it was a high five to one of his fawning associates.
Muktar is on speaker-phone with SAN-hound (counsel to plaintiffs suing Tobacco Manufacturing Co. for letting their clients buy cigarettes which may have caused lung cancer- ‘may’ because I am a lawyer and I’m paid to sway the ‘may’ to ‘did not’). We are trying to work out a settlement between our clients rather than a protracted court case.
‘I wonder if your clients know what we are offering’.
‘It is of no business to you. We are ready to fight’. He sounds like a scene in a part 3 of a bad Nollywood movie.
Muktar is playing cool negotiator while texting on his blackberry; SAN-hound sounds like a bristling teenager. I am amused and taking notes and wishing I had a blackberry.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
One of those ‘things’ is a picture of a Judge in his robed majesty, straining to see over the Bench. This singular de-horizontal fact overpowers all semblance of fierceness, dignity strength and nobility.
As someone who is described as ‘short’ by evil mouths and detractors who catch me without my customary heels, I can empathise with His Lordship. I am in court 2 and the judge is trying hard to see the witness who has similar horizontal inclinations. Every time he wants to clarify an issue, he bends over the bench, leaning on his elbows and almost spilling his ink pot. Unfortunately, I am not the only one who’s noticed the comedy, and even the short witness smirks.
Lesson to learn: if by some impossibly, unlikely chance I get to play Judge and Mistress over all with no corresponding size inflating miracle, the first thing I ‘shall’ demand - before a new silk gown - will be a customised chair. It will be the plushest ever, with legs at least four feet high so everyone has to strain to see me. No straining for Judge Rookie-Diva.
By the way, His Lordship seems oblivious and betrays no emotion.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
It’s one of my aunties. She’s having some trouble.
‘I can’t believe this is happening all over again. The Devil has failed.’
She’s been crying.
‘Aunty, what happened?’
I step out of Muktar’s office.
After a few more darts at the devil for his misdeeds, she tells me that state officials are making new road developments and her house has been slated for demolition. She reminds me that she built the house from her late husband’s entitlements. She wants legal advice from Rookie who’s as worried as she is.
I make out as calm and ask her to go to the authority in charge of building developments and hope that she will be well recompensed in time. A couple of months ago, she had lost most her investments in the market crash and does some petty trading most of the time. Her kids are young and still in secondary school.
I’m bothered and make a mental note to ask around.
Friday, May 8, 2009
The counsel on the other side wants blood - court, drama everything. He clearly doesn’t want to settle and is taking the ADR as a major irritation. He’s relatively young, mid-thirties maybe, and is unwilling to let his big case go ‘unnoticed’. I have a feeling that his clients are just a tool to his big-name path.
Muktar points out the problem in showing cause and effect in his case, the years it will take to hear it through, the sense in settling and letting a ‘growing, truly Nigerian company’ be but SAN-hound doesn’t want to listen.
I am taking notes and wondering if Muktar and I are thinking about the same company. Any more eulogy and he’ll paint a halo with TMC right beneath it.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I find the matter quite amusing in a perverted way. Both parties are high flying society and share their surnames with high brow streets on Victoria Island; first and second degrees in top British schools; wedding was in Ovation and businesses with balance sheets in the billions. But that wasn’t enough to keep them happy. (No, I am not snickering!) Marriage didn’t turn as successful and they want to part amicably - which they almost succeeded in doing except for one little glitch. Madam wants N70m extra as feeding, handling and medical expenses in favour of – wait for it- their dog! In typical Heather Mills - she wants proper care for a poodle she probably doesn’t care about. She says the dog has been like a child to her since she lost her baby in their third year of marriage.
Mr. Husband is not amused in any way, although I suspect he’ll let it slide. She’s threatening to unlock his cupboards full of skeletons and spoiling for a fight; he would rather not.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
“Please Sir. Help me.”
The court clerk is trying to hush the woman who is doing her best to keep it loud. The Magistrate is unperturbed as if he always has a lot of screaming and theatrical allocutus done in his court. After a while, the policeman moves her out where she continues sobbing.
The Magistrate has just refused bail for her husband charged with rape and robbery. Before today, he was an okada rider and was released last month from police custody for attempting to steal and causing grievous bodily harm to a young girl he was supposed to transport from point A to B. He wasn’t prosecuted because the police let him go and the victim didn’t want the court drama. It didn’t take him long to do some more mischief.
Maybe sometime in the future, when I’m rich and famous, I might remember this moment with a smile but right now; I am British royalty and ‘We are not amused’.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
‘Good evening sir.’
‘Hi Rookie. I was just coming to see you.’
He wants me to beg and I have no shame -
‘Really? Thank goodness I‘m here then. Does it have anything to do with the TMC matter?’
Gratefully, he speaks before I am half-way on my mental knees.
‘We’ll it’s a lot of hard work. You may even have to work weekends…’
I don’t allow him to finish-
‘Yes I‘m in.’
I stop over to get a large bowl of my favourite ice-cream (which I can’t name, because it will be free advertising) and today is rated ‘perfect’ in Rookie’s autobiography.
‘Sometimes it seems law is like mathematics. Get the rule; stick with it and go to sleep.’
She’s nice and instead of labeling me presumptuous and impatient, she asks with a smile.
‘And when it’s a new situation with no known rules?’
‘Get inventive… maybe’
She laughs loudly. ‘Your imagination will have to rest a bit. There’s a Court of Appeal decision on that matter. I think it’s unreported but I can find it somewhere’.
Fantastic! Seniors rule!
I try not to slobber on her shirt in my profuse thank you’s and promise to check on her later today to get it.
Just finished reading Glanville Williams’ ‘Learning the Law’.
I think I am spending too much time with the Prof and in grave danger of being a traitor to the Back-Benchers’ Association of Nigerian ex-Students. Weekends are for play and sleep not a book written by a (well respected and brilliant) late Welsh jurist.
Flashback to my first year - Lecturers had probably taken one look at my class of fresh-faced naïve and unspoiled idealists in need of guidance and recommended the book. Never one to tail the herd, I’d quickly dismissed it then since I figured studying something that won’t be asked in the exam hall was a waste of time better used in frivolous NFA-ish (No Future Ambition) pursuits.
Of course, now I realise it wasn’t well considered. Surprise!
It really is a good book, like a guide and in retrospect; it would have understanding law a bit clearer.
Anyway, no long faces here as I have upped my legal know-what and now I can always say something like: *insert ongoing conversation…* ‘yes, of course, Glanville was emeritus fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge’ (I picked that from the notes at the back.)
Or who knows, I just might get on ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire’ with the N10m question on English law.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Big Oga is in today and the meeting is more ‘interactive’ (read: looong).
We love him but sometimes, life’s like getting a cake- no one really wants to discuss the kneading the flour and the whole backing process. Just get us the cake!
I am still mind rambling when Muktar mentions the TM case.
Our client, TM (Tobacco Manufacturing) is facing civil suit by a group of smokers who allege that their thirty year smoking habits guarantees some retirement bonus. It sounds like the typical American mass tort case and I am surprised that the litigants are so organised in the first place. TM wants to settle and avoid negative publicity but it seems the Smokers’ lawyers want all the daytime TV drama and press coverage.
Muktar mentions that he’s selling the idea of an arbitral panel to the Smokers’ and is scheduled to meet with their lawyer the following week.
He’s half-way done when I know I want in. Even if the case doesn’t make it to trial, it was a big opportunity to learn how to handle these mass-tort actions. I think the Nigeria’s legal system is fast developing and soon, we’ll be having proper mass tort actions, and whose back is best to ride but a multi-billion naira tobacco company? I am thinking of those Enron’s lawyers and their indecently fat juicy pay checks?
So what if our side’s reverse David-Goliath? I throw a smile coquettishly and move my chair closer to Muktar’s.
Yes, I am shameless.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Learned Counsel is trying to dissuade the Court from hearing an application for judgment in default of pleadings. The law allows a party whose Statement of Claim has largely been ignored, to apply for judgment in default of defence in certain cases. Defendant has been lackadaisical in filing his defence and his counsel is playing dejected-advocate and saying the right lines.
‘My Lord, my learned friend is not being totally truthful’
Plaintiff’s counsel cuts into the pity act, and produces an affidavit Defendant’s counsel had deposed to, in another matter, referring to the institution of today’s suit.
But you can’t bring a ‘good tongue’ down -
‘My Lord, I did not say that we didn’t have information about this suit, I said that we had not been briefed’
The Court believed him – or let it go.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
While at university, it was easier to rush up assignments- I didn’t do the extreme plagiarism but I had learnt that when you plagiarise from two or more books- of course it was a good thing that the lecturers had no idea as to your sources. No such luck at LT& Co., everyone probably knows everything you are just finding out. It’s like Smart House. Ugh!
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
“We will go with the programme strictu sensu”
I am trying hard not to giggle.
I’m taking minutes for Ergo Plc’s AGM. It’s bad enough that the meeting started nearly two hours behind schedule, now the company secretary is making everyone a little confused with a Latin mismatch.
Finally, the meeting is over and he tells me, with a huge grin, that he’s taking a long distance law programme- I can almost see his hand patting his back.
“We will go with the programme strictu sensu”
I am trying hard not to giggle.
I’m taking minutes for Ergo Plc’s AGM. It’s bad enough that the meeting started nearly two hours behind schedule, now the company secretary is making everyone a little confused with a Latin mismatch.
Finally, the meeting is over and he tells me, with a huge grin, that he’s taking a long distance law programme- I can almost see his hand patting his back.
I meet Bode with the freckles today just as I between the third and fourth floor.
He has a wide smile and a strong grip for a handshake.
I hello back and naturally, we walk the rest of the way.
Freckles has just finished law school too. It’s nice sharing the bottom of the pyramid with someone else. It helps that he’s cute.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Today’s Client is Bank Hype (BH), an almost-there top three Nigerian bank. BH has a special retainer with LT & Co. which means they get to barge in the office and play important.
BH’s obese company secretary and another power-suit big shot (Head, Corporate Services, I think) come into the office, with all the drama and loud voices in the world.
After they scoop two sugar truckloads to their green tea (they actually demanded green tea because they are both on a diet), I settle down to my uncontested note-taker role.
Background- BH’s lending strategy and ‘aggressive marketing’ had resulted in a long term liquidity issue and LT’s legal expertise was called to the rescue.
Apparently, one can’t trust laymen to understand lofty legalese so Posh-Tall is providing legal opinion and explanation. And she does it well. She is brilliant. She introduces and explains securitisation in Naira and Kobo-speak. Soon, the green tea drinkers are mentally repackaging of most of their cash-flow producing financial assets into investment-worthy securities.
That way, BH’s balance sheet stays healthy, their customers are not overcharged to make up for the liquidity issues, LT comes out saving the (financial) world.
I love the law.
Today is pre-trial and since Ghandi has some matter in another court, he suggests I meet him in Court 5 at 12pm. Thankfully, I remember from Law School that pre-trials are less formal- counsel don’t have to do the big black robe and wig thing. It actually makes practical sense; pre-trials are not trials per se and why bother with the extra sweat when you can lose it.
So, I arrive at the court right on time and to a formally dressed- any more formality and they’ll be speaking in King James.
Every one turns as I walk in and can probably see ‘Rookie’ on my forehead. Ghandi is sitting across and almost starts his annoying clucking.
“Rookie, I thought you knew?”
I am absolutely embarrassed.
Ghandi goes on to explain that this court was usually robed because of the hours and some other reason I can’t get through my reddening ears.
Fortunately, the Judge is more concerned with getting business done than whether I looked different from the others.
Our matter gets called and Ghandi is the consummate advocate- all elegant and clearly spoken. Of course, it went well. No further drama- I guess it was largely due to the fact that my mouth was shut most of the time.
Monday, February 2, 2009
I am with the Prof at the canteen, complaining about the not-that delicious over-priced food; our unavoidable heels and the stress they give to your spine (well, until they make flattering flats for my chunky legs); and Monday and work- generally complaining about any thing worth complaining. It probably has something with the extra heavy traffic to work today. Ghandi and Muktar (another lawyer at LT) join us and pitch in the pity-party. We move on to more misery-worthy topics and soon we’re on being a lawyer and the stress; long hours, the robes and wig and anything we could pick at. At some point, we even whinge about duplicating soliciting and advocacy work.
Muktar is in the middle of his whining, when he turns to me-
“Rookie, you are so lucky, you just started and don’t have as much responsibility. You should enjoy it while you can”
(Interpret- “You do nothing, yet you moan louder than me”, interlaced with a patronizing ‘back in my day etc’)
I decide he has selective amnesia so I nicely remind my three-year senior that we work equal hours.
He smiles, probably surprised at my nerve.
The party soon breaks off and frustrations properly vented, we polish off our plates and go back to work.
Just as I thought- no matter how much we complain, we love what we do - and it puts food on the table.
Friday, January 30, 2009
I am seating in what has to be the world sleekest leather chair (though it seems ordinary to call it that) at Zeta PLC. I’m on my own, taking minutes at their extra-ordinary general meeting.
Posh-Tall told me this morning that I would be taking the ‘Zeta’s minutes’. I think she meant, “Things are a little busy now at the office, so why don’t you go ahead and do the most dispensable thing.”
I am excited though. Finally, I am pushed out of the nest to fly on my own.
The MD was nice and besides the expected social conflict, the meeting went well.
Office weekly conference.
Posh-Tall commends me on some research I did (I think the one I wanted to wring her neck over). I smile and unsuccessfully attempt a modest ‘no-big-deal’ look.
Ghandi introduces me to the lawyer on his right- Bode, who just got back from his vacation.
I never though I’ll see freckles on black skin.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I am indoors, drafting letters, doing research on an intellectual property matter that wasn’t even mentioned in two semesters and the three big notebooks I used for the course in university.
Every day, I notice I don’t even know most of what I think I know- or thought I knew. Point is- there’s so much to learn, I’m half worried I wasted too much time studying law than learning the law.
I’m in the middle of a long mind Socratic-dialogue when Ghandi calls me on intercom.
“Rookie, are you busy?”
“Not really” I lied.
“Do you want to have lunch now?”
I think about the people in Dafur who will jump at a free-food opportunity and I conclude that it’s rude and irresponsible to say no to a free lunch. I quickly tidy up and meet Ghandi at the lift.
The canteen is at the top floor and has fantastic food.
As we eat, I wonder if Ghandi is using me as jealousy-bait for the Prof. I don’t mind though. He seems nice and he’s paying.
Later on, Lekki-British comes to my cubicle with my call-cards. They are lovely and show-off worthy.
We chat a bit and she tells me that she’s researching on some long-distance law related courses in the UK. I am impressed that she’s actually doing something besides talking about what she’s doing. We chat a little bit and I try to make her smile.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I am in court again.
The matter before ours was popcorn-worthy.
A senior (Sweaty-wig) was cross-examining a witness, a female trader with a louder voice than his.
It could have been stolen from an Ali-Baba comic strip-
“In your sworn deposition, you said you were there when the accident happened”
“Yes now, I hear ‘kpooh kpah’”
“Then you didn’t actually see it. You just heard it”
He is unprepared for his tenacious examinee.
Then some lip-smacking and an ‘is he retarded?’ expression
“I tell you say I hear Kpoh-Kpah. I go lie?- Kpoh- Kpah!”
Sweaty-wig was sweating some more. And his witness was loving the attention.
Even the judge was smiling.
After a little more drama, the matter was adjourned and I sit beside the Prof in our far classier (read: extremely boriiiing) maritime case. I take notes and try not to sleep.
I haven’t seen Posh-Tall all week. I ask Lekki-British who tells me she went to
Monday, January 26, 2009
Monday 11. 45
“I can spell Ms Loya”
“Counsel, address the court properly”
The air-conditioning is Antarctica-ice but I am sweating profusely. Though, thankfully no one can see through my sweat drenched camisole through the black gown.
Forty-five minutes ago, I was safely ensconced in my cubicle; blissfully reading through legal precedents and journals and half-wondering if I’ll soon be needing thick granny-glasses. I was toddling this thoughtful point on a L. T & Co’s cream legal pad when Ghandi’s face pops from nowhere.
“You’ll be appearing in court today”.
It was really a simply matter- three sentences with zero trouble, I was thinking. And of course, what better time to cut my legal teeth.
Final witness for the plaintiff was involved in a bike accident; both parties think witness is important and would rather adjourn. Courts have recently resumed and legal traffic was minimal. It was perfect period to cut my barrister-teeth. I was giddy with excitement as I picked my robe and wig.
Ghandi had a little mischief in his smile but I take little notice.
Here in the court room, I can tell why.
The judge has a huge scowl on his face- I realise that huge scowls and glasses-assisted sight from a high bench tend to be quite imposing and sweat-inducing. Actually, I can’t tell if it’s a frown or simply disgust at my apparent lack of decorum and composure.
Another round of apologies and we finally get through the introduction. Counsel on the other side suggests a date and I mumble “no, objections, My Lord”.
Ghandi is waiting for me outside. He is finished with his filings at the Court Registrar’s.
“How did it go?”
He is practically clucking. I try to put a straight face but I give up and blurt out my woes, Nollywood style, ending with an “I made a fool of my self”
Ghandi laughs at my drama and tells me some stories about the judge. Apparently, His Lordship has a reputation for extreme impatience or extreme chattiness depending on which side of the bed his wife woke up.
I learn a tip today- reconnaissance: the court or mischievous seniors.