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.


Porter deHarqourt said...

Dear Ayoka,
Some of us are yet to start 'eating' from this thing that you seem set to demystify.
I assume you and CJN Kat are co-ordinating your attacks on the bar.

Another wonderful piece, but that picture of Dubya is unforgivable.

Funlayo said...

LOL - oh well, W. was as close to a synonym as I needed.

Oh ignore me - law is fun, exciting, a thrill, fantastic etc, like reading a law report.

& Thanks.