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.


Mr Okada said...

You can expect the war to resume now that Nigeria is out of the cup.

Unless Nigeria and/or your colleagues adopts a favorite nation that they will cheer on with more loyalty than they do the eagles.

BTW if you disappear around 3pm on an important errand and there's a serious match on, who will notice you're gone ?

Ayoka said...

The office has been pretty quiet since the Eagles did us 'strong thing'.
We are seriously grieving. I am not sure we can move on at this point - though Ghana has been giving us the eye for while now.

- leaving at 3: Grey Stripes would know.