Sunday, October 24, 2010

Means what it says on the tin :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Three Weeks.Yay!

Finally, I get time off - so does this blog. Next post is in three weeks!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Note to Militants: Kidnapping Lawyers is Bad for Business *

Nigerians were relieved when the abducted journalists were released a few weeks ago right after we played the ‘Nigeria does not negotiate with terrorists’ card. Yes, ‘Nigerians’ includes those poor attorneys whose litigious fantasies were shattered by the impatient and apparently unprofessional kidnappers. *Tut-tut* True hostage-takers would have exercised a little more restraint before letting their hostages go so easily. If they had tarried a while, we, the hardworking lawyers, would have had sufficient time to file our papers, suing everyone from the President to the governor of the ‘hostage-state’ and the ‘kidnappers at large’ for the psychological trauma caused by the incidents and the deplorable condition of security in Nigeria which infringed on our fundamental right to life.
The saving grace of their sloppy activities is that they had some insight to keep away from ‘stealing’ legal practitioners. Lawyers are anathema to any successful kidnapping ‘business’ – they will make awful kidnap victims.
No one will pay a kobo as ransom for any lawyer. The world has too many unwanted lawyers so that the kidnappers will be stuck with redundant disposable goods. In fact, people will probably celebrate the idea of losing lawyers without suffering through the nuisance of killing them. I also suspect that a group of ‘Aggrieved Former Clients of Lawyers’ will probably rustle donations to pay the kidnappers to keep the lawyers. Then again, lawyers are too cheap to pay their own ransom. Instead, we will probably draw up a bill of charges for the time spent in captivity.
The legal profession is already bound by so many codes, rules of etiquette and is so highly regulated that the hassle of abduction will be more comfortable than the cutthroat competition we face every day. We will probably find the jungle much more relaxing than law factory. This will place too much stress on the kidnappers who will be constrained to find other locations for their activities.
Lawyers and kidnappers are star-crossed. Kidnappers usually abduct people to bring attention to a worthy cause - it is the oldest technique used by freedom fighters and terrorists. Lawyers on the other hand, cannot bear to share attention with mere mortals, gun-toting militants or not. We love to be the centre of attention so that we will monopolise the post-abduction publicity and no one will even remember the kidnappers’ name or goals. Kidnappers don’t want that.
Kidnappers will find lawyers and their combative verbal skills particularly troublesome. Imagine a militant with a pretty heavy AK-47 in hand, probably a little nervous, also having to deal with a victim who cannot keep her mouth shut – Kidnapper: ‘Eh, move dia! Bristling lawyer: ‘Why? What is your locus standi to ask me to move? I’ll rather stay with here in compliance with the precedent you had earlier set’.
The benefits of kidnapping lawyers far outweigh the inconvenience. Lawyers have a significant dose of sartorial diva pretentions – who wants a victim that insists on a three-piece suit before stepping out? Lawyers will probably ask to review written demands for their own ransom and then, hold up the process by inserting all the archaic language they can muster.
Results of high level research (seriously, I saw it on some high-sounding blog on the internet!) has shown that lawyers have suicidal tendencies due to the long hours we work. This means that the hostage takers will probably chew on more than they can swallow – they have to watch over an irritable lawyer, ensure that the victim doesn’t die on their watch since dead victims are pretty inconvenient to dispose off.
Having the government at you is bad enough. Lawyers will be overkill – they get to sue you at no cost. At the end of the day, the kidnappers will probably let the lawyers go for free in order to get away from us.
Seriously, kidnapping lawyers is bad for business.

* Kidnapping is a dreadful crime. Rookie’s Rants does not find this dangerous activity amusing.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Legislative Syndrome

Like every good rule-picking, egotistic litigator, I love to whine and complain. One of my favourite gripping topics - outside the politics and Groveller’s antics at Lagbaja, Tamedun & Co., the eccentric clients who fail to realise my awesomeness, annoying adjournments, etc - is the Nigerian Legislature. I admit that any couch commentator or worthy roadside newspaper reader would agree that our lawmakers are particularly easy prey with issues from chair throwing to child brides. However, as much as I gripe, I still can’t get past fantasising on splurging on a fraction of their allowances. I think it is the ‘Lawmaker Syndrome’ – a paradoxical psychological phenomenon where a citizen falls in lust with the non-law items lawmakers make, in the light of the dangers the lawmakers pose.
Perhaps, it also has something to do with homonymic strife. Lawyers and lawmakers share the same first name – law. You have to step into our shoes to appreciate our perspective and pain. Lawyers, not legislators do time in the university and Law School. We have to wear uniforms. Lawyers are the ones stuck in a grave of subservience and are condemned to eternal scraping and bowing to anyone who was called to the bar a second before they were called. We are forever subject to worship of the judiciary, grovelling before seniors and all the perils of a ‘conservative profession’. We do all these for zero ‘hardship allowances’.

Lawmakers here have it too easy. Our Constitution merely requires that they be ‘educated’ up to secondary school level – nothing says they even have to pass their exams! They get wardrobe allowance and yet, they get to complain about their meagre millions paid as salaries and other allowances, while we, the hardworking, underpaid ministers in the temple of justice, slave away doing good in the name of the law.
Despite our goodness and kindness, it becomes ever increasingly difficult not to resent lawmakers for their power to make laws. In the first place, letting non-learned mere mortals make laws comes to casting pearls before swine. Lawmakers cannot pretend to understand Latin. They cannot appreciate the beauty of archaic and verbose language. Clearly, the fine art of repetition, needlessly ambiguous terms, among other learned tools of the trade, will be lost on these people. Were the legislative houses filled with lawyers, we would be out of trees due to the many pages required to contain merely the preambles of the laws. Lawmakers are unskilled - one needs a good dose of irony and a straight ‘lawyer-face’ honed from litigation experience to insist that ‘financial autonomy’ of the legislature is more important than electoral reforms.

You cannot grasp the pains lawyers go through everyday, working with laws made by these people. Many lawyers continue to strain their inventive powers to make laws by interpreting them to no avail. In law world, creating laws comes second only to delivering judgments and way before a thirty-minute opportunity to address the Supreme Court (and we know how we lawyers love the sound of our voice).

I am usually optimistic – you need a good dose of sanguinity to initiate an action in courts while believing that ‘justice’ will be done in your lifetime. However, some things are just not meant to be.
Eternal friendship between lawyers and lawmakers is one of them. ):

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What is good hair?

Great video @ The Guardian

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Law – and Lawyers – Exist

Beneath my ‘profound humility’, lies my inner Plato’s Socrates – I like to question the obvious magnificence of the legal profession to remind myself of my good fortune to have ‘been chosen’ to be a lawyer. Questions like – why does law exist? How would the world exist without us? Why do we continue to withstand the lack of appreciation and worship of this noble vocation? What if someone took Shakespeare seriously and did kill all the lawyers (aka what if the apocalypse happened?)
Yes, I often worry my deeply sensitive, altruistic self about these things.
Laws exist as the more reliable and conservative alternative to Facebook-powered public opinion for the determination of right and wrong. So, rather than having to rely on comments on his Facebook page to decide on the fate of the Nigerian Football Federation, Mr. President would simply follow the FIFA statutes Nigeria had acceded to before it became a member. Laws also mean that despite my intense love for ice-cream, I have to pay rather than steal it from Ice-cream Factory.
The legal system ensures that when people steal from the public purse, their ‘detractors’ have an excuse to put them in jail, hound them or at least, induce them into doubting their sexuality a la Alamieyeseigha. It also means that we must assume innocence until proof of guilt or until the Police beats the guilt out of its suspects.
Lawyers are the most important of these all. We are connected to law in the way doctors are to medicine – a set of people hoard the right way to use an essential commodity and then make a living out of that concealed knowledge. We get away with it because humans generally love the idea of a hero and demigods – someone to love and blame for our woes. It is older than Hercules, Zik or Mandela. Lawyers fill that role – we help the helpless and take the blame for the worries of the world.
Lawyers help run the legal system. However unbelievable it may sound, those noble and fearless judges who help uphold the law and right the wrongs etc, were once lawyers.
In life, things do not always work as planned. Hugo Chavez has shown that Facebook and Twitter are sometimes more excitingly democratic and ‘grassroots conscious’ substitutes. Militants storm Abuja to demand for their guns in the same way I fantasise about asking for a salary increase. Laws – or the making of them –provide an excuse for legislators to ask for a pay raise, barely one year after rejecting the proposed increase of the national minimum wage.
Law and the legal system are often ignored – like the time the former President’s leave of absence was staunchly supported by ‘the cabal’, and the fact that a paedophiliac continues to get paid to make laws. The system also sometimes seems like a farce – like when the chief of police got a slap on the wrists for an offence that places people on ‘awaiting trial’ for a decade. The US got away with Iran and snubbing the UN while Nigeria played nice by handing over Bakassi because the ICJ said so. Celebrities get fined for manslaughter and litigation sounds like a scary synonym for years of paper-pushing.
Despite these ‘aberrations’, some of law is better than none of it. Thieving politicians sometimes go to jail, excessive legislators sometimes resign in shame and the navy gets to pay up for its undisciplined ratings.

Beneath my ‘profound humility’, lies my inner Plato’s Socrates – I like to question the obvious magnificence of the legal profession to remind myself of my good fortune to have ‘been chosen’ to be a lawyer. Questions like – why does law exist? How would the world exist without us? Why do we continue to withstand the lack of appreciation and worship of this noble vocation? What if someone took Shakespeare seriously and did kill all the lawyers (aka what if the apocalypse happened?)
Yes, I often worry my deeply sensitive, altruistic self about these things.
Laws exist as the more reliable and conservative alternative to Facebook-powered public opinion for the determination of right and wrong. So, rather than having to rely on comments on his Facebook page to decide on the fate of the Nigerian Football Federation, Mr. President would simply follow the FIFA statutes Nigeria had acceded to before it became a member. Laws also mean that despite my intense love for ice-cream, I have to pay rather than steal it from Ice-cream Factory.
The legal system ensures that when people steal from the public purse, their ‘detractors’ have an excuse to put them in jail, hound them or at least, induce them into doubting their sexuality a la Alamieyeseigha. It also means that we must assume innocence until proof of guilt or until the Police beats the guilt out of its suspects.
Lawyers are the most important of these all. We are connected to law in the way doctors are to medicine – a set of people hoard the right way to use an essential commodity and then make a living out of that concealed knowledge. We get away with it because humans generally love the idea of a hero and demigods – someone to love and blame for our woes. It is older than Hercules, Zik or Mandela. Lawyers fill that role – we help the helpless and take the blame for the worries of the world.
Lawyers help run the legal system. However unbelievable it may sound, those noble and fearless judges who help uphold the law and right the wrongs etc, were once lawyers.
In life, things do not always work as planned. Hugo Chavez has shown that Facebook and Twitter are sometimes more excitingly democratic and ‘grassroots conscious’ substitutes. Militants storm Abuja to demand for their guns in the same way I fantasise about asking for a salary increase. Laws – or the making of them –provide an excuse for legislators to ask for a pay raise, barely one year after rejecting the proposed increase of the national minimum wage.
Law and the legal system are often ignored – like the time the former President’s leave of absence was staunchly supported by ‘the cabal’, and the fact that a paedophiliac continues to get paid to make laws. The system also sometimes seems like a farce – like when the chief of police got a slap on the wrists for an offence that places people on ‘awaiting trial’ for a decade. The US got away with Iran and snubbing the UN while Nigeria played nice by handing over Bakassi because the ICJ said so. Celebrities get fined for manslaughter and litigation sounds like a scary synonym for years of paper-pushing.
Despite these ‘aberrations’, some of law is better than none of it. Thieving politicians sometimes go to jail, excessive legislators sometimes resign in shame and the navy gets to pay up for its undisciplined ratings.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why there is Plenty in a Name (?)

God's Gift Achiuwa @ Erie Community College

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What's in a Name?

Dear Diary, this week starts on a bad note. Lagbaja, Tamedun & Co. is considering some restructuring within the firm that I, in my precocious infinite wisdom, already realise will amount to no good.
No, unlike the Football Federation, we have not been sacked and (I hope) no such thoughts exist. This is a fate worse than that. Yours truly, along with my fellow lower minions will now be referred to as ‘fee earners’ rather the more preferably pretentious ‘junior associates’. I realise that worse things could happen but this comes immediately after a legal apocalypse. This will undoubtedly result in trying to fix a tool that is not broken.
While I do not particularly adore the ‘junior’ in ‘junior associates’, I find it way more endurable than the newly introduced ‘fee earner’. There is something wrong about having a job labelled ‘fee earner’ that immediately makes you innately inferior to everyone else. ‘Everyone else’, of course, does not include interns and NYSC lawyers, who are strictly, microorganisms beneath the law ladder, objects rarely seen and only felt when necessary in their coffee making and photocopying capacities.

Apparently, Big Oga is the last to realise that ‘fee earner’ is a dirty word. It diminishes the dignity in the noble legal profession. Even though we all understand that law practice is a business, where salaries have to be paid from the services rendered, somewhere inside of us, we strongly hold on the knight-like quality of the quintessential advocate. We like to be thought of as gallant Joan D’Arcs in the gracious pursuit of righteousness.
This attempted change will undoubtedly affect the quality of my work. Until recently, I have learnt to hold my own and get away with pretending to be the smart professional associate by wearing Ghandi-like glasses to meetings. In fact, whenever I need to introduce myself, I quickly mumble past the ‘junior’ bit so most clients are clueless as to my actual position in the firm. With an expression as ‘fee earner’, there is little I can do to sound important any more ('earner' just does not sound right). Already, the ‘junior associate’ term mentally turns me to a bumbling mess whenever I actually have to report to Posh-tall in her office. Despite my near-smartness, I always get my facts wrong became I am overawed by the difference between my position and that of a partner. Emphasising my smallness will lead to no good.
The firm should know better. By now, one would think that every Nigerian has grasped the ‘power’ in one’s names. A name can make you President and a inappropriately chosen name or one with the wrong sounding syllables as ‘mu-mu’, ‘ita’, have been shown to lead to trouble.
I am torn in between declaring a fast to pray against this great sadness and finding a voodoo doll for Big Oga to perfectly express my discontent.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sometimes, I get feedback from Rookie's Rants...

and I usually find them really nice, irrespective of whether it knocks my logic or takes me seriously.

Olayemi F. Olushola knocks the piece on in-house lawyers:

This is a reaction to the above subject published in the This Day Lawyer section of This Day newspaper dated the 29th of June 2010.
As I read your publication, I became sick. It is very obvious to me that your publication comes from a very myopic grasp of the knowledge and workings of Law. In my opinion, you should have carried out a research at least on the internet before proceeding on a national daily. Your publication is definitely not researched and therefore falls short of the standard of an article.

The intention of this article is not only to disabuse the minds of the public who read the above captioned publication, but also to enlighten the public on the roles/functions of the in-house lawyer/counsel. In other words, who is the In-house Lawyer?

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, “A lawyer is a person learned in the Law, as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person licensed to practice Law”. The law on the other hand is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political and social authority and deliver justice. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems.

In Nigeria, once you have passed the requirement of the Council of Legal Education, which consist of having your Bachelor of Law Degree and qualifying in the Nigerian Law School, you will be enrolled into the Supreme Court of Nigeria as a Barrister and Solicitor. The name and qualification cannot be taken away from you unless you are guilty of falling fowl of the Rules of Professional conduct. Nothing stops a lawyer who is in a salaried employment to go to court to defend pro bono, for charity, family or if he is sued. This is provided for in the Legal Practitioners Act.

In-house Lawyers comprise of the Lawyers in the government parastatals, the corporate organisations and nongovernmental organisations. Their primary role is to serve as Legal Advisers. In corporate organizations for example, lawyers are there to help the company achieve their goals. The lawyers in this field of practice require a much wider set of skills. At this juncture, let me state here that once you have been called to the Nigerian Bar, you are opened to various career paths, which includes but certainly not limited to private practice, corporate organisations, government parastatals, nongovernmental organisations and the Bench. These practitioners then apply their acquired legal knowledge and skills to solve the various legal issues peculiar to that concern/organisation. You can understand why the above captioned subject matter baffled me, it is understandable coming from a non lawyer, but when it is coming from an acclaimed lawyer, I am indeed taken aback.

The duties of an in-house lawyer in a corporate organisation are, but not limited to the following:

• Preparing and vetting of contracts agreements and other legal instruments.
• Serving in committees and offering legal advice in the company.
• Representing the company in court.
• Liaising with security agencies.
• Perfection of title deeds.
• Continuous research in updating of legal knowledge as it relates to particular fields.
• Liaising with the Police and courts on matters affecting the company.
• Giving legal appraisal of investment proposals, ensuring safety and security of investment from the legal perspective. Preparation and perfection of investment instruments e.g. mortgages, trust deeds, deeds of guarantee, indemnity, bonds, assignments etc.
• Vetting important correspondences initiated by the other departments within the company such as letters of dismissal of staff, repudiation of liability, offer of ex-gratia payment, offer and acceptance of contracts, taxation etc. Also vetting of advertisement in the national dailies and televisions to ensure compliance with Laws and Regulation.
• Filing of statutory returns with the Corporate Affairs Commission and relevant regulatory authorities.
• Preparation of Board and Annual General Meetings of the company.
• Recording of minutes at the Board and Annual General meetings. This therefore knocks out your assertion that these practitioners are overpaid. However, you are pardoned because obviously you are lay concerning this issue.

From the foregoing, it is apparent that without your training as a lawyer you can never carry out these functions and even that training is just the beginning, for these categories of practitioners you are expected to be up to date with working technology and relevance in Law.

Since moving in-house, I have not only advised on all kinds of legal matters, I have also found myself playing a very active role in broader strategy, for example I have had correspondences on agreements at international levels and also had engagements with the Securities and Exchange Commission and high regulatory authorities, plus I can boast of being IT literate with the latest technologies. All thanks to my chosen career path. I must state here that this is the very essence and the beauty of the Legal profession. Every career path is a noble and respectable career path and all lawyers in this field are reasonable and responsible citizens of the legal profession and Nigeria.

Finally, Instead of undermining the very essence of these practitioners who contribute immensely to the noble profession and to the overall benefit of Nigeria by ensuring less litigation and properly advising these companies of their legal obligations/responsibilities and which in turn show case these companies as responsible law abiding citizens, making them add value to the society towards the advancement of our great nation, these lawyers should be applauded. The choice to be a corporate Lawyer is a career path recognised in the Legal Practitioners Act, Rules of Professional conduct and even the Companies and Allied Matters Act!

'acclaimed lawyer'? Go Rookie, Go Rookie

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In-house counsel... What are those?

The life of a junior associate is mostly yawn material. Most of the excitement of a typical day is grovelling to the salary provider, backstabbing another associate as she grovels to the salary provider, gossiping about those grovelling and when the occasion demands, telling artful untruths. These many perils still come a far distance from that of the ‘in-house lawyer’.

‘In-house lawyers’, also derisively referred to as ‘legal secretaries’, a phrase that immediately evokes a bespectacled Pittman-trained typist; or the more generalised pompous sounding ‘in-house counsel;’ are law graduates and law school veterans who have ditched the proper practice of law for the overpaid corporate world.

The ‘in-house lawyer’ is in fact, a misnomer. ‘Real lawyers’ are those you see in the courts, dragging their robes, quasi toga style, like you’ll expect of royalty. ‘Real lawyers’ are also distinguished by their litigation prowess and adjournment-seeking skills. We take no prisoners. One easy way to tell a real lawyer from these pretenders is the way our voices are permanently set to the ‘high-pitch’ category (in order to share credit: I think that also has something to do with the fact that the microphones in the courts rarely work). Anyway, in-house lawyers also have rudimentary legal training so they have some limited right to the use of ‘lawyer’. A suitable analogy: real lawyers are like ‘presidents’ while in-house lawyers are ‘vice-presidents’. They both use the word ‘president’ but one does nothing but takes pictures and attend ceremonies on behalf of the other.

These poor souls are torn in between two worlds. They bear the burden of lawyering without any of the benefits that make Nigerian parents encourage their naive children to study law. After spending time in law school, undergoing the humiliation of the faceless penguin uniforms, pretending to listen while sitting through hours of classes, having to actually read tons of useless material, among other painful activities; they end up with a job that hides their strengthened virtues ‘under a bushel’. Their dignity and hard work is never recognised. For example, they never quite attain the glory of puffing while pretending to hate the wig and gown under the sweltering heat. Instead, they lose their lack of individuality in the corporate world as they blend into the army of mere commoners. Worse still, they daily contend with having to mix colours to wear after years of the easy and reliable monochrome.

In exchange for an over-priced salary (no, I am not really jealous), in-house lawyers will never get to say things like ‘objection, My Lord’, complete with the dramatic slam on the bar or with the right amount of spit, pronounce to an hapless witness - ‘I put it to you’. They will never enjoy the pleasure of being referred to as ‘Barrister X’ or if they like, ‘Lawyer Y’, as if the profession confers specialised honorifics that reminds all of our superiority. Their words will never be immortalised through the honourable judge’s pen. They will never sit through the drone that begins after the third hour of judgment-reading or fantasise about elevation to the bench. For the rest of their career-life, they will remain mere men, un-revered and un-awed.

Bits of legal training spurts once in a while as legal training cannot be fully tamed. ‘These people’, a hybrid of the fantastic and the mundane, try to convince their employers of their value. They struggle with the professionals by reviewing our agreements or making suggestions to our work but they only come off as meddlesome children, without the far reaching effects of a Kaita.

I ought to be thankful for me. There are far more horrible things than being a junior associate

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


As Africa celebrates playing host to a series of ninety-minute leather kicking, law practice is doing its own sober, non-vuvuzela version. Lawyers have become more friendly and less grumpy. Obviously, this has more to do with less work and the fact that partners either look the other way or at a television screen when people leave the office before eight. It seems that we are all united or fighting hard to appear united by the World Cup. Everyone has caught the fever – Groveller and Ghandi bought those phones with cable sports channels and seem to have permanently attached the phones to their left palms for the past two weeks; the last two weekly meetings have been shorter since few lawyers are interested in sharing hypothetical legal issues that take hours of shouting and arguing with no solution.

People including less mortal lawyers, are unable to make three statements without alluding to football. The only person who does not seem to care about the World Cup is Grey Stripes – but I guess work drones don’t count for much. Even Prof. Nkechi, who does not like football, mentioned the fact that Africa’s bit of the World Cup was providing the locations and showing up with everything from the theme song to the Zakumi figurines from Latin America and Asia. At least, she noticed.
The most obvious thing is the way conversations, no matter how ‘innocuous’ ultimately lead to football. Someone could ask: ‘Did the court sit on time?’ and find a perfectly reasonable response in: ‘Oh yes. Like Argentina scored that goal’. Earlier today, Groveller comes to our pool office to raise some issues about a Statement of Defence, which Ghandi and I were working on. Ordinarily, Groveller would send an email or call to demand the ‘lower officers’ to appear before him. In response, Ghandi, straight face in place said: ‘Our defence is tight Sir. Even if the Claimants want to try a penalty, our papers are tighter than Serbia’s defence’. They both guffawed like drunken hyenas over a carcass left by an overfed lion.
(I am thinking: *Just shoot me! Any more football jokes and my ears will fall off*)

The good thing about the whole increasingly annoying football stories is that lawyers are also less antagonistic at meetings and usually tense negotiations. I think the idea of common enemies - Argentina, Greece, Korea Republic – makes it easier to bond and make concessions. I have noticed that the best time to schedule meetings now are a maximum of one hour before the next match since the other side is much more willing to concede to your point than miss the next match.
Someone also put the World Cup fever in the air-conditioning at the courts. Ordinarily ferocious litigators now seem to leave their claws at home. I am in court for some pre-trial conference, while we wait for the judge to sit (His Lordship stood the matter down for a period which suspiciously coincided with the Portugal- Korea match). I sit two seats away from a lawyer who is more known for his theatrics rather than for his grasp of law. Last year, I heard him agree to an adjournment with another lawyer only to turn indignant when the other lawyer formally applied to the court for the same adjournment. He went on about how lawyers did not respect the time of the court and how he ‘was constrained to ask for costs’. The other lawyer looked torn between shock, worry for his learned friend’s psychiatric health and anger at being made a fool of. Anyway, that same theatrical lawyer was in court today, bowing and making jokes with his ‘learned friends’. He actually seemed to enjoy the court clerk’s obnoxious disagreement with which country ought to have won the USA-England fight and the predicted scores for Nigeria’s Thursday match.

Few care about Zakumi or the meaning of ‘Jabulani’. The World Cup however meets our (often false) sense of ‘togetherness’ - like the brotherhood of the legal profession. Then again, it provides an excuse to while away ninety minutes at arm-chair football analysis. That works for me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Getting my Diary Back

Nothing says ‘well trained Nigerian lawyer’ louder than a nice large and hefty diary. In fact, the only thing that beats brandishing ‘the diary’ in court is showing off a four feet stack of law reports for a three-minute application. In addition to the ordinarily date-keeping ‘facilities’ of diaries, I usually use mine to vent, rant and complain about the things I sometimes love about being a lawyer. While modesty forbids my saying so, I also keep my diary to serve as a reference tool to record the details of my un-fabulous life so that when I become President or someone important, I’ll write a biography and get people to pay me for what they could get free on reality TV.

I didn’t realise how much I had missed my diary until Hyde Rookie accidentally spilled coffee on Senior’s Blackberry after Senior threw a typical tantrum. I stood in shock as I watched my beloved coffee go down the phone! Then, Groveller told on me so that I had to fix the phone. That would not have happened if I had a venting outlet. Usually, my diary acts as a virtual couch, unwavering listener to my irrational rants and comforter in the wicked law world. So, in order to spare the world of the dangers posed by diary-less me, I have decided to bring Rookie’s diary up to speed.

Lagbaja Tamedun and Co. aka the salary provider is still much of the same, save for the interns from the Law School and Muktar’s ‘defection’ to an oil services company. He left the firm two months ago. We still miss him. Plain Short has also been away for the last four weeks. The official reason is a short MBA course for lawyers, one of those executives’ courses where they eat three course meals for tea. Lekki-British said she must have her eyes on Posh Tall’s job. I think she merely wanted the vacation she could not take last year – no one really learns anything at those courses.

Posh Tall on the other hand is ‘different’. She has started smiling, saying things like ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and everything un-Posh Tall. Lekki-British (official position: receptionist; volunteer position: the firm’s chief news-spreader) told me Posh Tall has started reading management books and is practising what she learnt. Last week, she complimented Ghandi on his red tie. Ghandi looked like he was unsure of whether she asked him to strangle himself with the tie.

Ghandi is as mischievous as ever. Yesterday, he put salt in Totally Together Chick’s tea. TTC took the first sip, made an appropriate ‘oh dear’ face, and in her classic annoying calmness, walked to the bathroom. Lesser mortals a.k.a. Rookie would have simply spat it out and later worried about apologising for the uncouthness of the spray-spit. Ghandi also tried wearing contacts for about two weeks until he caught some eye infection. Of course, I made the appropriate (chuckling) sounds – haha!
Besides Ghandi’s perils, Grey Stripes is wearing a knee brace. I hear he fell down the stairs (it was about 11 pm and the lights were out). Everyone is pretending to be nice with the dutiful ‘oh, sorry oh’, ‘eh ya’, while we all laugh and ‘mock his downfall’. Grey Stripes hasn’t changed from the kill joy he used to be. He still does not understand that ‘normal people’ come to work only for the strong pull of the salary and not for the love for the law.

Senior is still a pain in the neck (see above). She has also taken to bullying the new juniors which is the straw before the last one to break the camel’s back. There is only ONE set juniors below yours truly on the ladder i.e. only ONE small sect of minions, I can rule over. Senior deprives me of this joy since by the time she is done with them, they are quivering and do not even notice my derision at their ignorance. *Sniff*

I am appearing with Big Oga, Ghandi, Prof and some ‘nameless junior’ (power is so yum yum!) at the Court of Appeal tomorrow. It means staying late to review the file.
Why on earth did I study law?!!
P.S: Note that rant was contained in diary, rather than throwing something at the nameless junior.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Robin Hood in a Wig!

Some impertinent bad belles may insinuate that politics and doggedness, rather than the ‘rule of law’ allowed Mr. Igbeke take his seat at the Senate. They may irreverently add that the court’s decision was hardly effective since the Senate got away with ignoring their Lordships for two weeks. It seemed that the Senate conceded when it pleased them to do so. These ignoramuses may then conclude with a feathers-ruffling question – did we really need to take three years worth of fillings fees, lawyer’s fees (undiscounted by actually having to listen to lawyers speak), appeal and all, just to ensure that the right person gets to spend one year at the Senate? In fewer words – ‘does law and the legal process matter’?

*Smsh* The simplest reason for the law is that a society that is burdened with an overzealous Police, bloodthirsty naval ratings, nit-picking LASTMA, selected politicians and predatory paedophilias, needs pre-agreed rules to function and protect it. The legal process ensures that those rules are enforced and do more than provide theoretical study materials for law students. Law is the protector of all from all. Deeper reasoning however, shows that law and the legal process are important without having to do anything else. Law simply exists because it does.

For one, the law justifies itself by birthing the hallowed legal profession. The legal profession (or more appropriately, ‘vocation’) is one filled with ministers who tend to Lady Justice and her nephew, Rule of Law. Law helps massage the egos of these chosen few and reassures them of their superiority over ordinary people. Law therefore, is entirely for society’s own good since one can hardly trust mere men to take care of themselves. Consequently, the legal process helps emphasise and remind everyone of how much they need our awesome selves. Better still, it allows us earn a living by saving the world and righting wrongs – like Robin Hood in a wig. (*Yes, I agree, ‘deeper reasoning’ is that complicated.*)

Many points acknowledge the fact that lawyers are essential to life in the way overpriced weaves are crucial for the over-processed hair of the Ultimate Lagos Chick. While the world may not be fortunate enough to get forty year old lawyers on the World Cup lists, they make do with one of ‘our own’ on the Federal Executive Council as the chief law officer. Our constituency is in power every time! More importantly, every bad guy knows from movie experience that the four magical words after getting caught is: I need my lawyer!

Despite the reasons to keep our feet away from the ground and scorn everyone, we are innately modest and acknowledge certain limits. We realise that we may not be as powerful as the former INEC Chairman who remained unfazed despite calls for the thing above his neck. Our judges however have the security of staying on the bench until they can hardly move their wrists.

Law also matters because it provides a logical excuse to carry out elections necessary to justify paying the legislators out of our taxes. Legislators of course, are those people who are officially paid to talk about making laws, sponsor bills to dictate the length of our skirts and sleeves, and ignore decisions of the Court of Appeal. Oh, sometimes, legislators apparently meet to discuss weighty issues such as their quarterly allowances.

Law is mostly like the United Nations – it helps us assume we live under one big happy umbrella and share the same goals until the USA decides it is strong enough to do justice by itself.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Even our eerily good-fortuned President did not tempt fate by choosing a lawyer as his deputy. It simply would have been pushing his luck farther than the boundaries of his name.

Lawyers would make devious deputies and probably outdo every vice since 1960 for reasons inherently lawyerly – backstabbing, lying, cheating, usury and other regular stuff. It begins with the fact that we are natural leaders and are too good for anything else. Something in legal training makes us easily emerge as first and unsuitable for deputising. Ask Hilary Clinton – it was either the Presidency or Secretary of State. We shine for reasons that have less to do with our absurdly styled uniforms and the dead language we insist on speaking, than our sparking wit and wisdom. Shining Stars can’t deputise.

Anyone around during the last few months of the last republic heard enough of stories about the Rumble in the Rock. Governance between a lawyer and a non-lawyer President could turn out pretty worse. Everyone knows that the true test of lawyer-hood is litigation prowess and staunch determination to annihilate the ‘other’ even in the face of facts that defeat the need for a third party adjudicator. The crisis could outdo the weti-e of the Wild Wild West.

No true lawyer would stoop low to defer to a mere mortal who may not have even seen the inside of a law school auditorium or ever been called a ‘de-law’. The gerontocratic law profession will never allow peace to reign between us and a commoner in the corridors of power. Never! The power sector will have its 6,000 megawatts before that happens. In fact, the Distinguished Senator Yerima would marry an adult before we stoop that low.

The office of the Vice-President is in reality, a nameless spare tyre on the wheels of government. They smile and do nothing more. The only time they can act is by invoking the doctrine of necessity. Vice-Presidents are like children and junior law associates – they are meant to be seen and not heard. These qualities are incompatible with the status of the legal profession. No grown-up lawyer who earns his living from a time-honed affection for his vocal cords will fit into a job that basically entails nodding at the right times and representing the President at events he does not want to attend. We lawyers love to speak too much to live a life of listening to other people.

Only losers settle for second place. Lawyers are not losers. We are like gladiators who fight to the finish. A lawyer Vice-President would for instance, immediately review the Constitution and find some loophole and an interpretation to remove the irreverent and intruding President. The President would obviously be at a disadvantage here since judges, being originally lawyers, would take the side of their own.
Then again, the pool of potential lawyer-Vice-Presidents is probably limited as few legal practitioners are in the ruling party. The lawyers in politics are largely misguided for the real world since they seem to have taken notions of justice too seriously. *Smsh* Many lawyers in government seem to actually do their jobs which would make them ill fitted for a position that actually expects you to do nothing.

More importantly, I notice that the President has a particular fondness for the black robe (the traditional woko). The only reason why we can’t see the accompanying wig is because it is well hidden under his black hat. The President apparently is wiser than sharing the limelight with a person who has a right to a similar outfit. Doing and co with his deputy may give the latter ideas.

Good thinking, Mr. President. An architect is way safer!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Keep Off our Turf!

Law School was tough – the lectures were long and boring; I actually had to read rather than cram; the person sitting next to me loved cigarettes but apparently thought mints were overrated; and horror of horrors: there was no decent ice-cream store near the school. Everything went wrong - it was really bad. The only thing that kept me up during those hard times was the thoughts of the rewards at the end of the tunnel.

Having grown up on reruns of American law offices on NTA, I knew Law offered everything to its adherents. With this knowledge, I quickly decided that the money lawyers made was worth the insane jealousy commoners felt towards them. The lawyers on the NTA soaps were pretty smart and revered – like Enahoro beneath a wig or a beardless Soyinka with a law degree. The soaps also assured me that lawyering was most of convincing twelve people of the innocence of their clients – easy like they did it. Never mind that I suffered a terrible stutter at that time, I knew that the law was the profession for me.

I had it well figured out. I would be a ‘good’ lawyer and rather than tow the Johnnie Cochran route, my skills would help win morally upright cases. Justice would be done while I reaped the truckload of money at the end of the law rainbow. For years at the university and Law School, I withstood the indignity of the facelessness of the penguin uniforms which we wore for lectures. After all, there was the guarantee of the sartorial splendour of the wig and gown. ‘Patience comes before reward’, I told myself. Had I known, I would have added a fair dose of good luck.

Whichever the case, I knew that I along with a few thousands would be distinctly learned and better than the rest of the world. The only things I didn’t really think through were the impracticalities of layering in the tropics and the sheer inconvenience of balancing a wig over weaves. Those were mundane and far from pressing in my brilliant mind. Instead, I used my ‘thinking time’ to worry about the how to manage the trust people would have in me and my expertise. I decided that I would work hard so as not to let them down – the perils of saving the world.

Like best laid plans and naturally aided by ‘the wicked ones’ (which are the rather more convenient culprits in our scuttled plans), real life turned out differently. Everything went wrong. Theory was so different from the legally themed soaps and an 8 – 6 job. Practice was before judges whose rulings sometimes depended on what they had for breakfast. The shock at the realities of law practice comes second only to what ‘non-progressive’ Edo State plebeian indigenes must have felt as they watched their ‘man of the people’ rub shoulders with the ‘traitors to democracy’ at his electoral reform rally.

Being a lawyer is far from what it says on the tin. I suggest that there should be a warning label on law faculties – ‘Law Practice Bears No Analogy with Ally McBeal’. While there is the general automatic conferment of erudition, dignity and distinction from mere mortals (oh well, amazing is easy!), law practice is not much more.

Worse still, our skills don’t count for much as pretentious hijackers seem to have stolen our roles. Nigerian lawmakers for one. Besides some Houses of Assembly that have consistently worn the wig and gown for ceremonial occasions, some Senators have now assumed our roles. They want the benefit without the burden!

Someone should tell them that lawyers, and no one else, get away with lying and using precedents to justify the rightness of our actions. Lawyers also have the sole discretion to use religion for our own gain. That is why we have incorporated oath-taking into the justice system to scare the witness into telling us what we want to hear. Unfortunately, one Senator has not only usurped our position but extended the use of precedents as grounds for legality of underage marriage. I think we should sue for theft of professional identity or something.

Law is strictly mine, well, I, along with a few thousands in Nigeria

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Name it: We Sweat It

Finding true love and happily ever after is pretty difficult in a world where prenuptials are negotiated as intensely as multimillion currency transactions or where aso-ebis cost more than the average family’s monthly income. Being perceived as a conceited, fashion faux pas on feet (really, black gown on black suits!) does not help your chances. My advice: don’t attempt to cross-breed, stay with your kind.

It is a dangerous world out there run by a conspiracy created by people who hate us simply because we are perfect. Relationships in non-law world have been skewered against legal training. They have so many alien concepts as trust, forbearance and forgiveness (yes, that includes forgoing your right of reply). Apparently, what makes us fantastic lawyers make us inept in a world of non-lawyers. A lawyer:non-lawyer ratio is hard work. Blame it on the conflict in values or the curse of genius.

Take our often unappreciated brilliance. Lawyers are trained to be smart in ways mere mortals cannot grasp. How else does one describe how we have convinced ourselves, the Supreme Court and its five wise men to ignore logic and the English dictionary to redefine ‘and’ as ‘or’? When you pull stunts like this and get away with speaking a dead language, reserve ‘learned-hood’ for your kind, conceit becomes you. Conceit does not however translate nicely with non-lawyers. In fact, people ignore delusions of grandeur except they are mouthed by a former military president with suspiciously abundant funds and willing sycophants who have convinced him that the world revolves around him.

Despite years of being right, we are unable to get past the innate need to persuade other people of our inherent rightness. Unwritten convention dictate that other lawyers allow us revel in the sound of our voices, while they politely await their turn. The initiated also knows that the real reason we have meetings is not to listen to the other side but to prove we are right again. Non-lawyers don’t get that and rudely interrupt our long winded sounds – one of the reasons that make ‘irreconcilable differences’ in divorces.

Lawyers have undeveloped trust genes. Law School trains us to suspect everything and trust no one. Besides our typo spotting prowess, we find discrepancies and danger lurking at every corner. Where we do not find them quickly enough, we create them. For example, while a non-lawyer cannot tell the difference between ‘I was at work all day’ and ‘I have been busy all day’, lawyers can read ten different meanings to each.

Words are everything. Non-lawyers may not understand us. Pillow talk between birds of a different feather could go like this:
Ignorant love-struck non-lawyer: I love you.
Love-struck professional lawyer: Is that without prejudice to my inclinations and leanings, and includes, without limitation, my appurtenant family; and excludes my corporeal and incorporeal hereditaments?
Only a lawyer will understand why we need to rewrite wedding vows for accuracy into three pages of verbosity.

Spending time with mortals to build relationships is incompatible with the status of a legal practitioner. Time is money and lawyers realise that. No true lawyer can send a friendly email or meet for drinks without mentally writing a bill for time spent.

We sweat the small stuff for a living. We fuss and nag and no one complains. Sometimes I wonder if the original word in the Biblical reference to a nagging wife shared the root words for ‘lawyer’. Lawyer revel in the small print. Often we manage to convince other people that two lines of barely legible print matter more than pages before. Other times, we just wear them out.

Aside: On Rookie’s Diary

I probably don’t say it enough – law practice is not giggly fun. Real life law catches up on you like the way the General Hospital looks after watching back to back reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. So, I haven’t filled my diary in a while because talking about the many pages of documents I read or the motions I adopt in court is not exactly fun-worthy. So, instead, I have decided to indulge in ranting from my lowly perspective. Most of these rants are unserious. Some are not.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Law .. then Sometimes, Justice

I have always liked the idea of playing Voltron (the defender of the universe) or a female Zoro (I like the idea of a sword). So when I finally got past the fact that studying law offered a rather narrow career path; I warmed up to it and took the second best option – saving the world. After all, government backed by law would ensure justice and save us all from the Hobbes’ world where life was brutish and short and who better to do the saving than my perfectly deluded self? I even took human rights classes and looked forward to rubbing shoulders with Gani, Ayo Obe or Shirin Ebadi (*hint hint*a Nobel prize). After a few ASUU strikes and mounting realisation that my friends in privately funded schools were going to be in Law School two years earlier and would inevitably become my ‘seniors’; I started seriously considering tax advisory or something pretentious enough to pay me to send my kids to private schools.
Still, I loved the idea of being a ‘minister in the temple of justice’ and convinced myself that my world saving ideals would work in corporate law where I would protect the poor defenceless tax-avoiding companies from the claws of the monstrous Federal Inland Revenue Service.
After two years in law practice and many more observing the courts and law makers, I think I have finally ‘gotten it’. Justice has as much to do with law as voting with the names on INEC’s certificates of return. Here is my analogy – as voting gives the ‘elected’ some semblance of legitimacy but has little to do with who is elected, so does law have little with being just. I think elections are held merely to allow governments spend money, wax poetic about the rule of law at international conferences and other things they like since everyone knows that the electoral body, rather than our measly votes has accounted for a large percentage of political offices in the past decade. Yet, life goes on and we live with an electoral body whose supporters are scorned as turncoats.
So, justice and law: law (in the general sense of judicial rightness) and laws (in the particular sense of rules in books) exist because they offer us some path to (what we assume to be) justice. Law tries to play the part and keeps Lady Justice’s company (hence the phrase ‘law and justice’). It seems to work since people keep paying taxes to fund legislators’ expenses and salaries of officers of a judicial system copied from a colonial system.
For most of the world, the connection between law and justice is like that between PHCN and electricity supply. Sometimes, it succeeds - like the time a big shot politician was convicted for fraud the same way yahoo yahoo boys get jailed for 419 and everyone sniggered about how the mighty had fallen. Law was also justice when electoral returns were upturned by the courts and the publicly perceived winner was made governor. People also loved the law when the Navy was told to pay up for doing what was perfectly acceptable ten years ago. Other times, law and the laws fail to catch up – like selective prosecution or the way no one catches political officers when they dip their hands in tax funded cookie jars.
Perhaps, the problem with justice is law. Law is pretentious. The rule against hearsay, for instance, means we cannot do anything about the ‘cabal’ with bad intentions even though the Minister of Information told us so; and the reasonable doubt rule in a world where we have been told to believe that our president is well enough to drink tea but not a five minute speech to the nation.
I have come to live with the fact that justice sometimes depends on the more expensive lawyer or one who can drum up the most technicalities. I take what I can of what law offers. Like the biblical solicitous rich man who was content to keep all the non-fiscal commandments but reluctant to sell his possessions, I live with justice coated law. This coat allows the luxury of being goody two shoes while we turn a blind eye to justice that has nothing to do with us. We hold on to a bunch of rules for predictability in commercial transactions and save ourselves from the fuss the late Gani would surely have made about their constitutionality.
Thinking through it, law offers a preferable second best. Justice is messy and complicated in the ‘an eye for an eye’ way that assumes the eye-remover has an eye or cares about it. Then again, who needs justice when lawyers get paid for law?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's Law Practice, Silly

Going to Law School was one of the best decisions I ever took. Although it was really pretend-choice since my decision was between taking a picture with a wig and gown at Law School graduation and destroying my mom’s dreams of finally having a lawyer in her family. Thankfully, lawyering has turned out to be enjoyable... ok, I exaggerate a little – sometimes enjoyable.

Law practice is largely easy. It is undemanding and forgives a multitude of errors. Lawyers are actually encouraged to make mistakes - it is law ‘practice’, silly! You can make as many amendments to your processes as you like. I have read amendments of Statements of Claim and witnesses’ statement on oath that are unrecognisable from the original claim and no one makes a fuss about it. Better still, since an amendment is deemed backdated, the other party cannot protest an outright lie. Law offers full redemption like Mrs. Tiger Woods.

The best thing about zero expectations of perfection is that it is really hard to go wrong. It’s like a marksman who chooses his target after hitting it. We get to take our time with everything too. Experienced litigators, for instance, tend to take time at trial since no one expects them to get it right the first time. In any case, we realise that perfection at trial may put appellate courts out of business – no one wants that. It probably smacks of judicial usurpation or some grandiose term.

Lawyers use precedents – we do not reinvent the wheel. Innovation is in fact, frowned upon. They are good for everybody: lawyers are unencumbered by the mental exhaustion of individual thinking, the courts are easily persuaded to interpret a provision like it was done elsewhere. Life goes on without the annoying flutter of brain activity.

The law is a very loyal profession. It lionises its veterans for simply existing. In fact, the only thing better than law practice is the Nigerian civil service, ministerial appointments and other political offices. You don’t to do anything to be respected. You can as well play dead while the years pile on. Of course, once in while you might do something close to inviting Jay Z to commission boreholes which cost less than you paid Jay Z’s entourage but at least, you get your name in the papers for it. The trick is to hang on long enough, make enough friends to get selected, promoted, appointed or at least ensure your family member ‘gets into power’. In law life, ageism is everything. Stand still and in a few years you could end up being magistrate, judge, take silk even. In between waiting, Law School assures us all of a steady stream of juniors to bully and harass, in the right quantity to massage our ageing egos.

Law is amoral. While some other professions expect you to take oaths of kindness and goodness to humankind etc, law does the direct opposite. It allows your play Mr. Hyde without feeling bad about it. Law extols backstabbing, lying and all the other stuff we all really want to do but which society otherwise scorns.

It is easier to save money while in law practice. You don’t really need to spend plenty on clothes as long as you have the robe. Also, no one will every accuse you of mismatching colours – it’s hard to go wrong with white and black. The only downside is the loss of aesthetic appreciation of colours and the fact that we’ll probably spend a lot more on deodorants to try to mask the stench of sweat under the robe.

Law pays you for the hours you spend. You really don’t have to do much – you can Facebook, read up all the news on the THISDAY website, or play Spider Solitaire. As long as there is a client to bill for writing a letter or ‘carrying our research’, you’ll be fine.

Unlike the Nigerian Senate where the public ignorantly assumes that its members reason with some semblance of logic; lawyers are not burdened with such expectations. It is in fact our job to make the most irrational arguments like ‘Muttalab is innocent until proven guilty’ or ‘the doctrine of necessity supersedes the Constitution’. Once in a while, lesser mortals try to steal our thunder. Fortunately, they rarely get away with our job – ask Charly Boy and his pro-Iwu marchers. No one does it better than lawyers do.

*Rookie Lawyer offers fictitious rants about the law profession. She does not reflect the true position of law practice. In real life, she is a perfectly reasonably boring young lawyer.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Shh... Lawyering is a Scam!

Perhaps, no one really needs lawyers. At least not in the way we need a non-phantom president; or members of the Senate whose thought processes will inspire our secondary school students; or in the way we assume we need ministers who can manage prayer sessions and culinary skills without spilling their loyalty. Laywering, of course, does not come up close to teaching, medicine, or engineering, whose skills keep our minds, bodies and skulls safe. Yet, lawyers have managed to get a lot of attention and charge for bills for what looks like doing most of nothing.

It is like a scam everyone falls for – not 419 enough for EFCC to arrest us and set up a press conference about how fantastic the organisation is, but a scam still. Like the way people pay underage hustlers for ‘cleaning’ their windscreens in traffic on Lagos roads when every idiot knows that the Omo laced water will only leave streaks on the glass. Or the way we pay park attendants for ‘helping’ us park or give the scary looking guys next door ‘weekend dash money’. Lawyers seem to charge people for services no one really needs, and the world falls for it every time.

Take the lawyer’s basic services – attending meetings, preparing agreements, giving opinions, listening (or pretending to listen) to clients rant about how their partner / wife / other person, all have long red tails and horns and is horrible, etc. Most people can do that without legal help. If we scrap meetings and use emails and everyone becomes saints and adheres to agreements, we can easily take the lawyer out without a bother. Luckily many can write so the email bit is easier to manage. Better still, if the world’s sainthood prospects fail, we can work with threats or other extra judicial methods to enforce our agreements. Listening is pretty easy, pastors will do it without a fee and gossip mongers will do it for free for the thrill. Opinions, like talk are cheap – every fool has one. Appearing in court, which may the only tricky bit is not as worrying when you think about the number of ‘fake lawyers’ who have practised successfully for years. Certainly, everything can be learnt on the job.

Technically, a law degree seems as useful as a complete pair of Cinderella’s glass slippers in Mile 12 market or a nice fireplace in one of Ikoyi’s posh houses. They look good, are pretty expensive but are useless in the real world.

So why do we have lawyers? In figuring this out, the easiest people available for any irrational conspiracy theorist are the ‘they’ (one world for government, the schools and basically every one worthy of suspicion). The schools make more money for keeping students in for five years instead of four. Law school gets them for another year, and the government subsidises the fees so because of the ‘compulsory’ dinners at Law School. Feeding students makes the government look good, as it part-fulfils its MDG goals. ‘They’ also have to keep the schools open because it is cheaper to pay salaries than force the lecturers to retire. The law profession gains the most – the feudality of it all, ensures that SANs continue to maximise their superiority over the rest of us and seniors continue to bully juniors. The juniors, victims of the Stockholm Syndrome are reluctant to rebel out of affection for the SANs and other seniors – and so it goes in a circle.

Despite the many bad bad things people say, lawyers will be here for a while. History itself seems to tell of the dark ages before us – like Eve in the Garden of Eden and her lame finger pointing Statement of Defence, which was not even a general traverse: ‘the serpent deceived me’. *Smsh* A lawyer could have built a stronger case.

Then in Lagos. King Dosumu could have gotten a better bargain for ceding Lagos to the British – perhaps, interests in the South-South. At the worst, a good lawyer would have scuttled negotiations and history as we now know it.

Here is my take on it all: lawyers have successfully created an ‘indispensability’ myth for centuries, it is not going to disappear anytime soon.

One Piece of Non-Fiction

On Tuesday 13th April 2010, young people in Nigeria will fight: we will not play Mandela or throw bombs. We will, however, strengthened by our anger, do what we can.

We will call for rightness with a strong faith in a better future:
Plenty more here at Enough is Enough

The Bigger Picture is the 2011 Vision:

Register (R): Empower yourself. Stop complaining and get your vote on!
Select (S): Choose wise, responsible people to support! Good leaders build a good nation.
Vote (V): Take Charge. Exercise your power. Roll with your buddies/clique to the polling booth.
Protect (P): Make your vote count. Don’t walk away from your future.

Maybe this will not do plenty. Maybe it will. We have to do something to find out.

Take-off point is Archbishop Vinning at 11 am.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

If I were a Judge...

Judges are what lawyers want to be when they grow up – or as gaffe prone Joe Biden could put it: Lawyers are second-class citizens in law-world. Everything points to some show of superiority of the judiciary over the toiling lawyers; like the way people ignorantly assume that the justice minister is superior to the minister for special duties.

Even the language used betrays the disequilibrium. Lawyers are ‘called to the bar’; judges are ‘elevated to the bench’. Lawyers are merely learned friends. Judges on the other hand are not merely learned but are Lordships, Honours, Worships and all the language that signifies a halo right above the grey wig.

It is professional bigotry! People seem to forget that the judges were once lawyers. So, while they disparage us daily, make lawyer jokes that insert shark-teeth around our oratorical jaws; judges get off easy, smelling like new money. It’s a good-bad ‘cop’ situation (‘police’ is too Nigerian and may be interpreted as insolence to the bench). Lawyers are the bad cops, the ones mocked for their zealous pursuits of their clients interests. There is something about being a judge that brings on awe and feelings of ineptitude in the beholder. Few would cast aspersions on a judge; well until judgment is given to the other party.

From the magistrate courts to the Supreme Court, the judiciary is all powerful, all knowing and almost always right. At trial, judges are the infinitely perceptive eyes and ears of the court. Trial judges are also part-time psychologists since we agree that they can interpret the witness’ demeanour and are blessed with the innate gift of knowing the lawyer who tells the most lies. Judges must also have rather strong wrists to support the fingers that take down the noises lawyers make. Smart lawyers have caught on to extensive powers of the trial judge and have learnt to defer to their preferences. The judge in the court we appear in may determine the length of our skirts, the size of our jewellery and anything their imperial inclinations desire.

The appellate courts are in another realm. It is like an impenetrable sect. Nothing brings terror and dread to the most confident lawyers like a ‘judicial whisper’ (aka, the words justices murmur seconds after a lawyer finishes what he assumed what a brilliant argument and seconds before the lawyer stops assuming he was close to brilliant). Their Lordships are infinitely wise and omniscient – or we hope they are since technically, ‘appealing to God’ after the Supreme Court, might be a bit of a stretch.

Better still, judges do not really retire. People refer to judges as ‘Justice X’, ‘Mr. Justice X’, twenty years after X wore a wig. The Nigerian in many of us cannot deny the effect of a high sounding honorific. Even honorary doctorate holders proudly insert the ‘Dr’ immediately after ‘Chief’ when writing their names. Lawyers, on the other hand, do not have the luxury of a grandiose appellation. Save some community chieftaincy title, we are stuck with the same plain old Mr., Miss, *yawn* Mrs and Ms.

The only snag to being a judge is the asexuality. Females apparently do not exist in the judiciary. I often see lawyers, who without blinking, refer to a female judge (who wears a skirt, long weaves even if primly tied to a bun, make-up, has well manicured fingers and does everything women do) as ‘Your learned brother’ or ‘Your Lordship’. Really, after all the time and money spent at the salon and make-up store, a little expression of recognition would not be out of place!

I think I can live with that though. Caster Semaya still has her Olympic gold medal.
Being a judge will be fun. It will feel like a third skin, right above my unwarranted ego one. Lording over counsel who could ordinarily be bullying seniors in any law factory would give me immense pleasure. Judging can’t be that hard – apart from the writing bit, all I’ll have to do is pretend I am listening, point out illogicality in counsel’s arguments and use counsel’s research to write a judgement. I could also use precedents. At the appellate court, I’ll simply ‘concur with the well reasoned opinion of my learned brother’.

If I were a judge, I would sit at 8 am everyday just so I can pontificate about how hardworking I am. I would make no exceptions – rain, hail, thunder, federal executive council or otherwise. On days when the court’s generating set decides to go the way of the nation’s electrical supply, I would be undeterred from sitting and appearing to do justice.

Heaven help any poor counsel who comes in late. I would use my practiced supercilious eye on errant counsel look and make sure to make some quip merely to teach her a lesson. Just before she announced appearance, I would quickly strike out her matter for ‘lackadaisical prosecution’ of the matter.

I would be Draco-mistress of all, Catherine the Great, Margaret Thatcher, all rolled into one.

Judging will be bliss.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Random Thoughts: Myth Busters

TGIAF – Thank God it’s almost Friday. I am not in court today and I am not offering to appear in court. My thoughts today run to the awe lawyers still manage to garner, which is in itself is awesome with the number of lawyers in the country and on television. Lawyers, like most heroes are yet mystified - a thing that will probably continue for as long as we wear the most distinct uniform of all (and that includes the clown’s). In my Joan D’Arc mode (aka, slayer of ignorance) though, I have decided to shine light on these mysteries.

Myth: People who talk a lot are likely to be the best lawyers

Reality: Prattling lawyers are rarely winners.

For one minute, put yourself on a bench, in a very thick gown and really heavy wig in some African country. Imagine that as you patiently withstand the heat, your job also involves listening to people natter about everything and nothing – like you don’t get enough from the Federal Executive Council. So, you patiently listen and since you can’t tell the difference between the hundreds of cases you hear, you also have to write down what they say. After a while, you realise that when people talk a lot, they often insert a number of ‘untruths’. It hurts that people try to deceive you. Soon you get suspicious when a person in a wig says something as innocuous as ‘Good morning’. You also have the thankless task of reading through briefs and cases to counter the prejudice-arrows shot at your saintly impartiality.

Then, add to our scenario that you now have the discretionary power in certain cases. You check your quiver: you can’t do anything about the increasing heat to your skin; you can however do something about the lawyer who thinks falling in love with one’s voice is in.

Which lawyer wins?

Myth: Lawyers Read Books
Reality: Lawyers Like To Think They Read Books

Some photographer must have assumed that the only acceptable background for lawyers’ pictures is a bookshelf filled with old, unread law reports and texts aka ‘the book’. At some point, everyone started to believe her and since then, the rule has come to stay. Once in a while, an adventurous rebel takes a picture behind a swivel chair and almost succeeds, save a hint of ‘the book’, perhaps right on the far left of the desk.

It makes sense – ‘the book’ implies wealth and wisdom. However, at the best of times, it is no more than a prop.
Lawyers don’t display the dog eared books they really read on shelves. Once in a while, with an eye on a client, the wise lawyer makes a show of flipping through some leather bound text. Often, the client falls for it and mentally justifies the bill the lawyer charges. Everyone is happy.
The book will probably outlive us all.

In the true tabloid fashion: More shattering exposes soon. Watch Out!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Law Life Does Not Imitate Art.

Despite what everyone thinks, practicing law is far from fun. Of course, underlying my sweeping statement is my lawyer-conceit that assumes that people find time to wonder about what we do and attach some sentiment to what pays our bills. I however like to think that somewhere in between the security issues, a distracted National Assembly, energy (non-) supply, the existence or otherwise of a non-acting President, among other thought-worthy issues; we do our bit in keeping the world well hung. In any case, time has shown that worries have nothing on Nigeria since life tends to go on. The education minster will party in the midst of labour strikes in the education sector; the budget will be signed whether or not the President exists; graduates will be deployed to a state that is giving Georgia and Turkey a run for their CNN coverage (who cares if we lose a few of them), etc.

Once in a while however, I get statements like ‘wow, you are a lawyer! I read Grisham, you know’, accompanied with a misty-eyed look. I am usually amused at the disappointment people show when I fail to provide the ‘I am your soul-sista’ or ‘I feel like we totally connect, you know’ expected response. It is however difficult to sympathise with anyone who takes a retiree lawyer’s views seriously. If law was really that fascinating, Grisham would be in some law factory, loving the law and oblivious to the world and everything around him, rather than writing about it.

Law life does not imitate the art. The closest thing to ‘real’ lawyers is something in between the respected late vociferous Gani and what some bad belles may have called ‘lethargic’ former justice minister. Most lawyers are really boring with lives where the sole excitement or show of revolt is in the colour of pocket kerchief they choose to wear on the day they appear on NTA to provide blustery contradictory statements on the most recent drama at the National Assembly. The rest like me are the juniors who do work no one wants and is sent to clients who are looking for someone to blame and really don’t want to listen to our opinion. Grisham does nothing to paint what really happens.

One of the most influential pictures of lawyers is probably a man in a suit and in classic Johnnie Cochran style – ‘if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit’ to a mentally bullied jury. In real life, there is no judging jury of twelve. The judge is all we have and is too egoistic to be bullied. There are also no dramatic opening or closing statements since the rules of court mandate counsel file written addresses. The Nigerian lawyer has little or no chance to grow his oratorical mastery and in any case, the bench is the sole listener to the soundless oratory on paper.

Lawyers don’t say ‘objection my Lord’ every three minutes like Nollywood wants us to think. Law practice has largely evolved from table banging objections to smoother ways of backstabbing. In any case, (for the reasons outlined in the previous paragraph) verbal lawyering is a fading art. One more thing Nollywood does not get right – lawyers do not ‘rejoice’ with their clients after the judge gives a ruling with their favour. Whoever wrote that into a script?
Almost every self-respecting Nigerian family has coerced the least resistant child into studying law. There are so many lawyers in Nigeria that the allure has largely worn off. It follows that apart from the beloved human rights lawyer, who is near knighted, the rest of us are largely disdained or ignored. Members of the unfortunate lawyer-less families are easily recognisable – that are the ones that call us ‘De-law’.

Fiction rarely mentions the wig and gown. For obviously sartorial reasons, few non-Nollywood movie directors bother with clich├ęd uniform. The lawyers wear dark sharp Saville Row suits. Some even get away with Legally Blonde-pink. Ha. Law in real life is sober – black gowns over sober flat shoes and everything anti-aesthetic.

On television, most lawyers stick with basic salutation – Mr. Miss, Mrs, Ms. Anyone seeking the ire of a ‘real’ Nigerian lawyer may stick with fiction. Here, lawyers are identified by the prefix ‘barrister-’ or ‘lawyer-‘.

Have a great week.

Lawyer Rookie

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Diary of A Desperate Naija Woman

There is a book every woman and woman lover must read: 'The Diary of A Desperate Naija Woman'

I met Bola Nelson today. She is even more delightful in person than virtually (we've had an email relationship).

I absolutely love her book - which has little to do with an acknowledgment in it (ok, maybe a littler!)

She is on Amazon Barnes and Noble and better still on her own blog

Monday, March 8, 2010

Good lawyers Don’t Make Good Friends

Lawyers are victims of the conflict between the worlds we live in and the world our ‘educationally disadvantaged’ family and friends know. We are torn between our stronger inclinations of law training – backstabbing, pride, snobbery, resilient nitpicking, among others - and the ignorant world outside the courtroom and law office. Law training often wins.

Take Latin. In law-world, Latin is cool, smooth and amazing – like a young Antonio Banderas speaking Spanish we don’t understand. Outside law-world, Latin is a dead language used only at the Vatican City. Law-world is clearly insulated from the outside as lawyers hold staunchly to Latin phrases no one understands or cares about.
For instance, lawyers, ensuring that mortals are within a earshot are more likely to say things like: ‘Oh, was it done uberrimae fidei?’; ‘I would not worry about it, the matter is res judicata.’
It must be some love for vowels.

Regular people grow friendships by spending time together, sharing jokes with friends and family, leaning on the shoulders of kith and kin during the rough times, etc. Apart from the fact that lawyers hardly have enough time for frivolities as building friendships, no properly trained legal mind can spend one hour with other people without mentally preparing a bill of charges. Even pro bono lawyers prepare a bill then write it off. We have to justify every second of the day.

We also find the telephone pretty disconcerting and against our very ideals. Somewhere in our treecidal minds, the telephone as a ploy to usurp the paper – our one true love. Telephone conversations also do little for our litigious minds – burden of proof is needlessly heavy, and the witnesses’ demeanour cannot be observed from one end of the telephone line. Nigerian lawyers are particularly suspicious of recorded conversations as few courts would actually admit them. We also have to deal with the issue of the constitutional right to privacy,

In the real world, forgiveness is idealised. People like to make up and deal with situations. In law-world, arbitration is for losers and negotiation is only as good as when we win. Real lawyers fight to the bitter end, dragging their clients with them.

We also revel in spotting typos. Finding one or better still, a flaw in another’s arguments or a law no one will ever use is mentally celebrated with balloons and trumpets. We really like this – actually we really like anything at all that reminds us of our intelligence.
Our skills in this area are not really appreciated in real life. People live life spelling their names as ‘Jennifa’ and don’t really bother about it. Most lawyers can’t keep themselves from pointing out typos on BlackBerry messages or Facebook statuses.

Law teaches that primary school was a waste of time - ‘and’ does not always mean ‘and’; ‘or’ has more meaning than a two letter word can offer. When in doubt, we use ‘and/or’. The smartest lawyers can use ten years to get a matter dealing with the definition of ‘should’ from trial to the Supreme Court.

We love to hear us speak. Other people think that the only set of people who they really have to listen to is the Minister of Information and the Acting President (when he acts). Usually, anytime we try to go beyond a 140-letter twitter, people ignore us. We don’t like being ignored.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Aside: Why I went to Law School

In court, appearing alone against some lawyer whose white hair takes the glamour off his wig. While we wait:

‘How are you?’
‘Fine Sir.’
‘So, who did you come with?’
‘I am appearing alone Sir.’

Well, could it be because call to the Nigerian Bar generally gives you the right to appear in courts by yourself?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

At about 7: 45 am, I watch Ghandi struggle with two heavy files on his way from the filling room. His glasses are slightly askew and his barrister’s jacket is a little higher than it should be. In my characteristically saintly mode, I offer to help him carry the lighter looking file. While we walk down the stairs, we make small talk. It turns out he was to appear with Plain-short who fell ill over the weekend and could not make it to the office.

‘Yes, so I will be appearing alone’. We are on the first floor.

At this point, sensible Rookie ought to have shut up or moved on to the weather and other ‘safe’ topics but sensible Rookie had not had her shot of caffeine. It was a case of diminished responsibility. I was not thinking straight. Then again, the work-free Friday made me lose my edge and a scoop of sense.

I hear myself offering to appear with him. I assume that it would score me brownie points and that in any case, since the matter was merely for adoption of motions, so I would be back in an hour.

‘Adopt and leave. That should not take forever’ – I reason. So, I run up, grab my wig only taking a few seconds to drag it across the wall for the right amount of dirt and distinguished threadbare look.

I do not realise the dire consequences of my good deed until we get to court and it’s filled with what appears to be the all the lawyers in Lagos. Everyone knows that the next worse thing to braving traffic and rain for an empty court is braving traffic or rain for a full court. Our matter is listed twenty-eighth on the cause list. The judge is one of those annoyingly efficient ones who would sit through rain, fire and no electricity.

What hurts most is not the thoughts of spending time away from my pc and Facebook tool but the fact that I could have earned the same brownie points by volunteering for work which I could pass on to some junior.

It is finally our turn at past three and we adopt our motions (which really means that Ghandi mentions my name while I take a bow; he speaks while I take notes). I am body-tired, mind-exhausted and definitely anti-good deeds.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spell- Checking For a Good Cause

Gloater has been sending me her personal statements to spell check. Like the rest of Nigeria, she is applying for a master’s degree in some UK school and ‘is really hoping that bomber boy hasn’t ruined this for us’. She assumes I have nothing better to do that read through her lofty sounding ideals about saving the world and Africa (apparently, Africa is a little country, well away from the world). Although it has been a slow week (perfect after Grey-stripes Saturday drama), I realise my time could be spent playing Spider Solitaire or some other worthy pursuit while pretending to work.

There is nothing wrong with an LLM. In fact, it is a Nigerian civic duty to ‘do masters’ immediately after university. Besides the much touted theoretical reason – adding to the body of knowledge – it also allows you to wrinkle your nose and politely despise those who schooled in the ‘failing Nigerian school system’ while getting a year off traffic, work javascript:void(0)and buying credit for people who think you earn enough to share. Better still, when you return, you automatically earn the right to demand for a pay raise even if you have no clue as to what your mint certificate purports to teach you.

One advantage though – I get to keep her statements and rework it for me when I want to apply.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Saturday: Law the Diva.

I understand that law takes a lot of attention and time - and I don’t mean the time we take to wear the shirt, suit, button the collar, robe, adjust the wig etc. After spending five years at undergraduate level learning a lot of things any self-respecting idler will forget before convocation, we get to spend yet another at law school, with parting words about reading all through one’s career. Thankfully, our National Assembly makes catching up with the law a whole lot easier.

In any case, six years of school is a disproportionate time for a course half as versatile as a Chemistry or Zoology, which can make you president or vice-president (and everyone knows that being vice-president is a potentially powerful or stagnant position, depending on the country you live in or what excuses the legislature can wield).

It follows that my random and regularly irrational ranting rarely involves regular mortals who have nothing to do with law i.e. family and friends. I don’t talk about them because they don’t really exist - not in the literal sense, since unlike Terminator, I happen to have come to earth by more conventional means. They don’t exist in the time-worth-spending scale. In the pursuit of law, I have come to recognise what is important and whose needs reign supreme: the salary provider and the client. I have then come to ignore those that have nothing to do with payment of bills, salary increases and those who have no power over my motions, appeals or determination of the next adjourned date.

‘Quite frankly’ (the verbal synonym for: a really modest shrug or the sound of patting my back), the only reason I can recognise the office building during the day is because I sometimes leave my tiny cubicle to appear in court. I hold my donkey-ethic in working seriously and have learnt to perfect the art of ‘work’ and ‘busy’. Naturally, in case anyone forgets this fact, I remind the salary provider about my consistent lack of life and love for the law by sending emails at 9:30 pm on Friday evening and working weekends since everyone knows weekends are the most effective time to begin intensive legal research.

While I take special pride and fulfilment in bragging about how hard I work and the number of hours I spend at the office on weekdays and weekends, I see no reason why I should be at work today – the Saturday before Valentine’s Day.

Grey-Stripes (aka kill-joy, destroyer of my personal satisfaction) and who has no life outside the office except on his Blackberry decided that we (three other associates and I) meet today to review an agreement that I strongly suspect won’t self-destruct by Monday morning. I have tried every subtle and shameless hint to get out of this, feigned a cold and stomach ache, made repeated calls on my phone and hints that have not worked. Right now, I am contemplating mistakenly spilling water on my keyboard, pulling out my hair or some other act that indicates the need for strong men in white coats.

Finally we finish at a quarter to four, time enough for ice-cream and a movie. This is when I really really hate the law.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why Lawyers are Indispensable

Received new instructions today.

Last year, the client expressed an intention to buy a house in England but didn’t want her husband, Mr. Client to know. We were to handle the transaction until she sent a letter telling us that she had ‘resolved the matter’.

It turns out that she gave the money to a ‘longstanding family friend’ to purchase it on her behalf but in Mr. Family Friend’s name. Unfortunately, Mr. Family Friend died last month before he could transfer title to her.

Mrs. Family Friend has refused to pass the title to the client since her husband ‘did not tell her he bought the property for anyone’.

Mrs Client is angry and has come to the office to throw a tantrum. She wants to sue and hurl a fine dose of Zeus’ (or more appropriately, Sango’s) thunder bolts at Mrs. Family Friend. The first could be arranged though I am unsure about the second.

Unfortunately, suing will bring Mr. Client in the know. She does not think Mr. Client would be inclined to pat her on the back for hiding this from him.

She wants her lawyers to advise her. I could tell her in one sentence to tell her husband and maybe mediate or conciliate with Mrs. Family Friend. Plain-short has however instructed that I write a four-page opinion telling her the same thing and send her a bill.

I could also tell her that she could have avoided this by executing a trust deed with Mr. Family Friend or some other legal means but it would ring much of ‘we told you so’.