Friday, June 19, 2009

Lofty Heights

We are in a conference with some clients – ‘we’ is Posh-Tall, Grey-stripes, Prof. and I... and a new-er wig (yes, I am ageist!)
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

Fun stuff

Muktar wants a legal opinion on the claims against Tobacco Manufacturing. We will be meeting with its legal secretary tomorrow at a Chinese restaurant. TM will be sent a bill of charges, with an item for ‘meeting with your good self’ or something similar. I love the part where you get paid for fun stuff.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

More Honesty When You (Don't) Need It

It’s the simple, rarely varied ‘adopt-your-statement’ question. Counsel asks, ‘Did you make this statement?’ Witness says a ‘yes’, then the other side gets a go at the witness’ jugular, while pretending to cross-examine.
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?’
Surprise -
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.

Streaks and Honesty

Streaks and Honesty
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


just last week, I was reading on the world’s top hundred law offices, not like I‘m ‘materialistic’ and the figures firms earned sort of jumped at me. (Interpret - All my drudgery will soon pay off in rich and famous terms.)

Weekend Hours

I’m at work on a Saturday morning...

*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


Posh-Tall is back. She went to the IBA conference and spent a week in Brazil.
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


The file has several correspondence addressed to ‘The Registrar, Commercial Division, Ikeja’. Logically, I assume the court was in Ikeja and don’t think to ask anyone.
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’
Yourba-accented ‘Eh?’
‘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

Gavel is Might

Counsel on the other side’s wig is a dirty blond and he’s been referring to me as his learned colleague although he’s not able to hide his derision at my shiny one. Worse, I have just referred to third party as second defendant and he’s quick to correct me.
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

Having and Giving

I am still working on the project finance agreement from yesterday, when my phone rings. I’m using Mode9’s ‘Regular Guy’ for my ring tone and I usually let it ring for a while before I take the call. This time it’s an old friend and I take the call without the ringing ritual that annoys whoever is next to me.
She’s perfect for my ‘sore ears’.
‘Hey Girrrrllllllllllll!’
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

Lawyer Myth

Movie myth - lawyers are sharp, suave, never hassled in their dark suits and speak Project-Fame-Judge style to an often bespectacled judge.
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.