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.