Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I hear Law School results are out today. That is one thing I am excited about – not worrying if I wrote right, not having to review my blood pressure, not wondering if my life will change forever after the resultsor other dramatic thoughts.
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.

Wednesday’s Thoughts: Up the Rung, Officially.

There is something which I had been waiting for the appropriate non-dramatic moment to proclaim, I had planned to ‘accidentally’ slip it into a line or a gripe themed on the need to ‘mentor the younger ones’ or join in the general decry of the falling standard of education and how good lawyers were rare to come by these days... something carelessly mentioned in the as lawyers say, ‘course of business’.
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

Tuesday’s Thoughts: Kidney Transplants and Rookie Lawyers

‘Would you ask a fresh faced doctor, like the ones in Grey’s Anatomy who gets bullied by everyone, from nurse to consultant, about a kidney transplant?’
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

Monday’s thoughts: Why We Should At least Think About Killing All the Lawyers.

Theoretically, arbitration is an alternative form of resolving disputes and lawyering without drawn daggers. Therefore, in textbooks and manuals, they save time; are less expensive and more flexible, and lead to amicable resolution of conflicts among other laudable attributes, unattainable by the regular litigious courts. The ideal arbitral tribunal would resolve issues faster with a judge whose knowledge on the matter would fill a mile high text and parties would continue to live happily ever after.
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

Thursday’s Thoughts: Heard in Court

Counsel A: ‘My Lord, I am afraid that I would have to ask for an adjournment as my lead counsel is unavoidably absent as he had gone on lesser Hajj.’
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

Wednesday’s Thoughts: Holidays are over

Wednesday’s Thoughts: Holidays are over!
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

Tuesday’s Thoughts: Client is King?

Usually, I try to assure myself of my unending patience and love for the world. At this time of my life, ‘my world’ is the law office and usually includes clients who pay the bills to keep the law office open. This means I am a whole lot more restrained with clients than Kanye West at the VMA or Serena Williams at an annoying line judge. Recently, I have been dealing with a client who has deeply shaken my illusions of sainthood (a different client from the one who went volte face for the amendments on Monday). This one is another horror client nightmare, like the type law school teachers warned us about. Last week, he sent at least a dozen emails on Monday and another dozen on Wednesday to clarify a point that was clearer than rice paper. Today, I spent forty minutes trying to convince him to sign an affidavit. After we got past the fact that he did not have to actually go to court and take oath before the commissioner for oaths, I had to explain every line of the affidavit to him. Then he had me reprinting the affidavit since he insisted that I insert the word ‘JP’ after his name like it was a national honour.
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

Monday’s Thoughts: Kill the Trees; Use lots of paper.

Lawyers like a lot of paper. The official reason for our love for treecide is the need to keep proper records. Paper serves as evidence when integrity of a gentleman’s agreement fails. Instances abound - paper may be the reason why everyone knows that a loan was given without adequate collateral and why committees to probe fraud are caught in fraudulent acts.
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

Are our Heroes better off dead?

I tried to vote Gani in 2003. I only tried because after four hours at the polling booth, something told me that between my one vote and the thugs who were also waiting for the electoral officers; the latter were more likely to be that last snowflake for the electoral avalanche. I however still rooted for Gani, from the safe confines of my house and grieved when he lost, like I would also later grieve for another preferred candidate in the 2007 elections.
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

Kill the Lawyers?

In Nigeria, briefing a lawyer in a dispute usually signifies war or at least the recognition of armed conflict and burning of any hint of a white flag. Yet, lawyers make a lot of money causing trouble and pretending to fix it. Whoever decided on the smart idea of arbitration as a substitute to litigation, clearly failed to carry out research in the Nigerian legal sector. Ghandi has been working on some arbitral matter. From the case file, arbitration was initiated three years ago when the other party failed to meet its obligations to pay for the maintenance of a ship due to cash flow problems. To my ordinary pedestrian mind, the problems could have been sorted out with staggered payments, and the debt would have been amortised over time. The lawyers did not think so – why allow peace and joy when we can make cause a little more trouble?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Occupational Hazards?

‘Hello sir?’
‘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

Shhh... I like it!

For all my gripe; dramatic grumbling and ranting, I like being a lawyer. Everyone assumes you do something really important and like a true Nigerian, I like the implied ‘do you know you I am?’ when I strut in the banking hall on my way from court, with my collarette ‘accidentally’, peeping under my sharp black suit. I like the new looks of awe and respect on the faces of family friends, who knew me when a handkerchief was the size of all the clothes I needed, and the bullying big aunties who terrorised me at children’s church years ago. Now, I get to play pretty big stuff and they have to listen! I like it most when people call me to ask for free legal advice and the glee I feel when I say ‘the law does not allow it’.
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.