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