Tuesday, 21 December 2010


Illustration by Sugabelly 

Nobody believes in Santa anymore...or maybe, it is just that nobody is courageous enough to voice out that belief. How can we talk of outgrowing ‘stage Santa’ when experience shows that free gifts become scarcer with the advancing years; and thus more treasured. I think that, as surely and as inexplicably as snow (and harmattan) punctually herald Christmas-tide; that portly model of geniality must be given his right of place during the celebrations.
Sadly, Santa in the face of dwindling popularity has either uncloaked and transformed to a normal, unhappy mortal; or simply soared to yet undiscovered galaxies of the North Pole. Or maybe still...has retreated resignedly to the suburbs of our imaginations.

But in truth, it is difficult to deal with his absence. The yearly re-creations of his image buttress the reality that we cannot use maturity as an excuse to wish away Father Christmas; and thus; murder Christmas. Therefore, if only we are bold enough to strain the borders of rationality, Santa can return again...and grace our world with his pleasant deep throated laughter filling us once more with the harmless innocent cravings that have grown extinct in an increasingly humourless world...

But then; we reckon without the Law...and Lawyers.
There are certain legal questions that would need to be successfully addressed before Santa is re-admitted in today’s hyper-civilization.
Already, the odds do not help his case. He wears a cloak and a...wig. And he steers all attention to himself with their bright colours, as opposed to the grim dourness of the lawyers’. Maybe that explains the origins of the traditional closure of Law Courts at Yuletide. As the melodious bells of Pied-Piper Santa introduce an enchanting truce in human relations, lawyers are compelled to involuntary idleness. Surely, you do not delude yourself that the religious significance of the season extends to the legal folk as well.

So the cross examinations commence- What are the contents of those bulging bags? What statutory authority issued the ‘standard testing’ for them? And, being Imports; have they been properly taxed and necessary Duties paid? For example, if some daft believer wishes for a fairly used car, would Santa’s obliging the request not tantamount to smuggling? ...Santa is a smuggler then...?  If that is established as a fact, of course he would be put away for a long time.

Oh! Smart fellow; he tries to evade further taxations by couching his goods as ‘gifts’. Ok; let’s see how he prepares proper deeds of gift to his teeming fans. He would need a lawyer for that; right?  Can’t the gift clause be defeated by the perfectly logical argument that installing a week-long holiday in his honour is adequate consideration by the recipients, thus creating multiple contractual relationships? The follow-up question once this is conceded as fact would then be: Do the goods meet their description as contained in the respective wish-lists? Is there adequate fitness for purpose and merchantable quality? What are the Insurance covers, especially in the light of his precarious delivery mode? What jurisdiction do the parties submit to if there are conflicts? Does Santa’s native origin reflect a Reciprocal Judgement enforcement concord with those of the various offerees?  

Further precautions would also be imperative. First, the reindeer must be withdrawn!  Its use constitutes a violation of various sovereign airspaces; and until a comprehensive international framework is developed to cover UFOs, Santa must fly in air-planes. He must endure the routine of body scans; and his bags thoroughly rifled through. Sorry; no wishes of cologne, deodorant, shampoo or liquid stain-removers this year.

Now, this is actually where his problems would only have started.  For one, his ancestry is doubtful; though he claims to be Dutch. Whatever though! Within our shores, he is an expatriate. Where is his Business permit?  What Visa does he bear? Has he been cleared by the National Investment Promotion Commission? Has the issue of Expatriate quota been addressed?  How many indigenous employees does he propose to recruit, considering the inevitability of registering a corporate entity?
And now, that dubious mode of ingress he adopts...floating in through chimneys! What honest man does that? And this, while the household sleeps! There are Legal provisions on house breaking and burglary; and he should not literally soar above the Law!

Child Right activists would also have a few things to say about the practice of cuddling kids on his laps and buying them over with gifts of candy...all the while with a twinkle in the eye. Viewed with the discerning eyes of a lawyer, that ho-ho-ho roar and belly-smacking attain a disturbing dimension at such scenarios. Therefore, he needs to satisfy beyond any doubts that he is not a previous offender.

And Alas! He wears five golden rings...on his left hand and is known to frequently hum a tune about Nine-Ladies-Dancing.  He must issue authentic certifications on exactly how many Mrs Claus-es are in the picture. While it would be naked contempt to celebrate a monogamous faith with a polygamist in the lead, the Lawyers’ concern is the Matrimonial Causes Act which by virtue of his preferred season of appearance is irrebuttably implied to bind him.

Now- those numerous trees that are bulldozed at his behest; complete with shiny decorative rays of dubious radiation levels? He would need to scale through proper Environmental Impact Assessments and other relevant statutory tests before such practice is allowed to continue.  

Finally, it is likely that the custom of writing Wish Letters will be reawakened, complete with other options enabled by the Information technologies: mobile telephony and other wireless media. It would be suggested that a stakeholder enquiry on what these portend for Cybersecurity efforts of various states be held. There is no telling what items a terrorist group will prefer; and Santa willingly oblige. He should therefore agree unreservedly for round-the-clock surveillance to be mounted on his every correspondence.

Now, this is the moment the reader tosses the paper aside with a snort, and a muttered curse on kill-joy gentlemen of the Law.
Well, well, have your celebrations, but there is an overriding obligation to the rules of modern society...and its cogent fears.
And you must concur that the above requisites do not substantially derogate from the traditional Santa-clause.


Published in Thisday Newspapers:December 21, 2010- http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/inserting-a-legal-clause-to-santa-/71622/

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

In defence of the Prosecuting Counsel...

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Not being a Litigation Lawyer has many hazards. From the embarrassing inability to independently drape oneself in the elaborate legal toilette; to the pitiful image one presents as cerebral analyses of court orders, motions and certioraris erupt in the gathering of lawyers.
And more humiliatingly; you are de-barred quite literally during court proceedings and have to share seats with the intellectual hoi polloi in the public gallery. You do not even get to announce appearance and merely get introduced as ‘legal officer’. 
My best efforts at injecting every importance into that title usually fall flat, in the face of my more appropriately costumed colleagues. I try to remedy this by taking seats closest to the bar- that inner enclave in courtrooms, that demarcates the real actors from the spectators- and wear a poker-face to sieve the class of commoners I would be constrained to sit with for the day. Again, this ploy fails woefully when the court is filled; a litigant (or litigant’s family) wedges in beside you- ‘Abeg, bros u fit shift small...?’ The nerve! 
He settles in, and then flashes you a wide grin of plebeian camaraderie which interprets as ‘we may not be so learned, but at least we share their court’. Most times the Judge chooses this period to appear and thus cuts short the biting adjectives you would have instantly deployed in cutting the oaf to size. And he will continue the mannerisms throughout the proceedings; laughing loudly at wise-cracks, and nodding vigorously in your direction, ‘Kai! these lawyers are too much! My broda, you dey follow me see, so?’ That’s another big disadvantage of not being in litigation: I cannot determine offhand whether self defence avails for unprovoked verbal assault!

I come into the court today and brace myself for yet another bad day; moreso as there are about six criminal cases before ours. And since misfortunes never come singly, the court is filled and I am squeezed between a horde of sniffling, teary eyed females; apparently relatives of one of the accused persons.
Struggling to mitigate the discomfort; I let my eyes settle on the state counsel; who by the way is in charge of all the criminal prosecutions for the day. I naturally assume that being involved for so long in the business of jailing people, and advocating for the maximum justice untempered by mercy with a blood-thirsty tenacity would leave the average prosecutor gnarled and wizened. I generally picture them as grumpy old fellows with bulging red eyes and thickly veined necks; the grim reapers. But no, the state counsel on duty today, rose, erect in healthy youthfulness and smiled, I searched for signs of morbidity beneath, none. He had all the transparent cheeriness of a fulfilled worker...and in a firm voice that carried through all sections of the muted chambers, proceeded on his mission for the day.

I instantly warmed up to him, but I reckoned without one of the women sniffling beside me (It turns out she is spouse to one of the accused- charged for some complicated transaction gone awry) ‘God will punish this man for me! The wicked will never go unpunished!’ she kept hissing under her breath, shaking her knees in an ominous rhythm. I quickly silenced her with a muttered warning of her inevitable fate if the judge overheard her. Smart woman, she evidently understands that marriage vows do not cover “In freedom and in chains...” and promptly shut her mouth.
She looked quite schooled and well groomed, so I was curious at her reaction and walked up to her during the short recess. She was leaning on a wall, haughtily disengaged from a small crowd of murmuring well-wishers:
‘Madam; I am a lawyer. Please accept my sympathies, but your husband’s case doesn’t look so bad. And there is really no need getting all worked up at the prosecuting counsel; he is just doing his job’
‘His job?!’ She blazed ‘Why does he struggle so persistently to have them behind bars? Is that what he went to school to go and study Law for? His mates are selling properties and sealing big deals while he makes a wretched living from bringing out the worst in human nature...’
‘How so, madam?’

‘Can’t you see? Look at that old judge! He appears quite compassionate, but that wicked counsel is quick to raise fresh objections and suppress any stirrings of pity he may have...and you say he doesn’t take it personal!’
‘Madam, you judge him harshly. Somebody has to maintain the necessary balance of morality within the society, and it cannot be achieved without the fear of legal reprisal.’
‘Why then does he flog it too hard, why?’ Her voice broke again.
‘Because justice must be obtained at whatever cost...’ I was treading dangerous grounds.
‘Even at the cost of a man’s happiness? Is that the horrible thing they teach you people in Law School?’ She shook her head sadly.
‘No. We learnt how to employ our skills in various field, and we use it largely to chase money and glory. But that man you abuse is more courageous and selfless than most of us and uses his purely for justice’
‘It is not courage... he just wants the easy protection of government work’
‘You may be right, madam...but imagine if he weren’t there...every thief, arsonist and rapist will have their way and the Law will be helpless. He sets societal order in motion...’
‘Why doesn’t he leave it to the police...?’
‘Do you in all honesty prefer ‘Police Justice...?’
She paused awhile. ‘Well, I admit, that sounds like a contradiction.  But I think being a state counsel is the scum of Law Practice. I can’t help my intense ill-feelings towards him; and I am sure all the relatives of the people he sends to jail are united in that sentiment...how terribly burdened his soul will be!’

‘He is already over-burdened with the standard of proof the law requires of him...’
 ‘Which is?’
‘Establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt...and these expensive lawyers you have hired to defend your husband are there to make that unattainable. So the odds are, they will plant adequate doubt in the judge, and your husband walks away, free.’
‘But I know my husband...he is not a bad person.’
‘The counsel shares your opinion no doubt...but, you see, he deals with facts...’
‘And fact differs from truth...?’
‘Fact is visible truth
‘God knows my husband is innocent; if you lawyers were more inspired by religion, you would not treat a man’s life and freedom merely as a matter of logic...you would hand it over to the Supreme Being...’
‘But Madam...we already did that. Didn’t your husband swear an oath...? And I guarantee you; all the Prosecution witnesses would as well. So, the Court is actually convinced that they all say the truth, unless of course they are insufficiently afraid of the Higher Powers they believe in...’
She was silent for some time...

‘But why can’t he just deliberately lose cases? It does not reduce his salary! Or does he get compensated in some diabolic arrangement of pay as you jail...
‘Or hang... as the case may be.’ I smiled
‘You mock me?!’  She turned crimson and advanced threateningly.
‘Not at all madam’ I held out placating hands ‘What I mean is that, he is the most honest of all lawyers because his worth is not measured by the money he is paid; nor by interests or stake in property or percentage of damages. He does it for justice. You are feeling this way because you are a direct party. But Justice is not emotional...’
She gave me a long stare, and walked out.

Back in the court, she switched seats and stayed as far away from me as she could. A needless enemy; for my reckless defence of somebody I never even cared about. I looked up and my eyes caught the prosecuting counsel. He sat calmly, adjusting his collar and leafing through his books. For the first time, I felt comfortable in my own skin as a ‘legal impostor’ within Justice’s hallowed chamber. My predicament is by far outweighed by that of this outcast in the eyes of many; who daily bears the heavy yoke of convincing society against its wishes, that it is as yet far from ideal...


First published in Thisday Newspapers: November 23, 2010

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


He sat poker faced, an older man, methodically sipping from his glass, not speaking.  I had his full attention and maximized the moment. Speaking in slow, tailored tones I struggled with the alcohol which was threatening to inspire me to more spirited and less dignified submissions. I cloaked my opinions with a generous dose of legalese, and the phrases resounded, weighty, sage-like. This little trick has never failed to work when I’m baiting a potential client. 
Furtive, sideway glances always revealed their lips slightly agape, eyes swimming in the advanced stages of hypnotic awe.  How come so much knowledge is reposited in such a young lad! I would suddenly pause in mid-sentence and knot my brows, shaking my head slightly as if silently debating with an inner instructor. At such moments, the catch in their breaths is almost audible, they would hang onto the silence, and when I spoke again, it would be in whispers. They would strain forward, not daring to interrupt, desperate to catch every syllable. Then with a bored expression, I would mention my fee. Enveloped in the aura of my erudition, they never haggled…

But I seemed to have landed an uncommon fish today. The gentleman kept an unwavering stare on my face.  My punch-lines did not even elicit a nod, my wise-cracks sounded hollow. I started feeling slightly ridiculous and quickly blurted out my fee without the attendant rituals. That was when he smiled…He smiled with all the warmth of an air-conditioned igloo, and the frozen words rolled off his tongue, briefly: ‘Don’t be silly, boy’. This affront stung some heat into me, and I unleashed a withering denunciation on people so bloated by their own ignorance, they do not appreciate the enormity of a lawyer’s job. I waited for a reaction, none. 
He curled his lips downwards in another of those ghastly smiles and condescendingly breathed ‘I am a lawyer too, my boy…don’t look so combative. I have practised law for years, here and outside the country, but overcome by the sham of it all, I left, and veered into business, occasionally lifting young lawyers from the starvation line by offering them jobs I don’t really need done.’
He must have read the retort bubbling in my chest… ‘I admire your enthusiasm, but my boy (why does this Siberian keep calling me that!) save up your energies for some worthy ideal, lawyers are going out of fashion. Forget about the bright colors of our speech and language, these merely disguise our shadowy grasp of the tools of modern living.

Who is the corporate lawyer today? Those charlatans at CAC? Lugging multiple files and purporting to: (He made his voice squeaky in mimicry) “Not just incorporate your company sir, we shall also advise on the best strategy for share-holding and directorship.” I humor them most times, acting like a layman. I would say… “No, no don’t worry, I don’t really need the company for anything serious, it’s just to chase contracts.”  
Then you hear their Ohs and Ahs… “But sir, you will still need to clearly enunciate your Objects clause in a manner that would clearly communicate your adeptness”… abeg abeg abeg, like that fellow, Uti would say. Yes! I watch Big Brother Africa! Those guys are more real than this charade we call a profession. Which adeptness?, Do you not know that unschooled Business Centre operators have grown more adept at crafting MEMOS and ARTICLES, while the corporate lawyer remains stagnated in his big words, ignorant even of how to format documents on Microsoft Word.

And the so-called Estate Lawyers? How do their job details differ from the ‘agents-on-the-hustle’ which this town is festooned with? One of them came to my newly completed house at Maitama the other day. Of course I kept a straight face, though I recognized him as one of those always loitering around while work was in progress. He looked different of course, a new jacket, a borrowed car, and crispy Call-cards. Yes sir? “I wish to introduce our dynamic law practice to you sir. Our special practice focus is on Property management and …” 
“Ok, so what services would you offer me?” ‘He instantly grew breathless.’ “A myriad sir, Further to ensuring that you are not cheated out of the aesthetics of this choice location, we would utilize our best efforts to generate the most suitable clientele in the likely event that you would wish to place the accommodation on the public domain…” and ‘they’ proceeded to mention a preposterous amount as Legal fees. “Ok, you mean you want to help me and look for tenants?” ‘I asked. He looked taken aback.’ “Sir, we don’t put it so crudely” 

“How crude do you want it? Is it not percentage you want? You want to be my caretaker, not so? Do you bear in mind that your competitors, the self trained estate agents are asking for a mere tenth of the amount you mention? And they would even help me enforce payment from my tenants the street-way if need be” ‘Of course he slunk off, he met the wrong mugu. Yes! Mugu, the Law is a fraud. Wetin Lawyers dey do sef?’ He suddenly switched to pidgin. ‘Nothing! That’s what lawyers do. They simply position themselves around every transaction and trumpet that none can be completed without their aid. Lies!
They propose to draft an agreement for you, carrying on like they will lose a minute’s sleep over it, and charge you millions. Millions! For the mechanical routine of rifling through their antique volumes, duplicating time-worn principles, with their unique vocabulary as the only original input. Some daft SAN came the other day (I gasped at the blasphemy) and asked for tens of millions to file my Motion on Notice. In his arrogance he scribbled an invoice, winking conspiratorially that every smart business man had to be silky. I found it hilarious, because even if I lost that case, the plaintiff’s claim is not up to half of what the swaggering clown charged.’ I caught myself nodding.

‘When I go to a hospital, the medical personnel manipulate machines, concoct medication and invariably fetch me actual relief (as opposed to Legal relief, which is largely imaginary). The engineer builds a bridge; I walk on it and marvel. Have you ever seen the engine of a ship? That, to me is the climax of human thinking. Using the brain to make creations, and effect practical changes.
So, my boy, before you get to those millions, you have to wait till next year, when the election petitions will open the floodgates. Make the most of it while you can, because very soon, even the politicians will grow wiser and understand that the outcome remains a gamble nonetheless, unaffected by the drama you guys bring to the courts.
You people have even lost your footing on the practice of Charge and Bail. Detainees now pay directly to DPOs…’
I immediately had to interrupt…

He smiled again and lifted his drink. This time, his eyes actually glinted.  He signaled the waiter… ‘One more bottle for Mr. Okafor, please.’ Leaning forward he whispered, ‘At least, lets both make the best of the Bar tonight.’

- published in Thisday Newspapers: October 5, 2010- http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/lawyers-have-gone-out-of-fashion-/77338/

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The High-tech Lawyer: an Oxymoron

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Not a few Lawyers (and Judges) look at the persistent incursion of modern technology in our unique lives and wish that the whole rubbish will fast-track on a self destruct mode and burn itself out entirely! The age-long mystery of our profession is fast being deleted. These days, a random lay man inserts a phrase on Google search for five minutes and proceeds to engage you in a discourse on interlocutory injunctions. 
Tragically, he may even come up with better points, complete with international jurisdictional comparisons! So much then for the decade of legal training, largely spent lugging tower-high ancient texts. The ultimate reward of the Bar, which consists exclusively of holding sway with words and befuddling awestruck lesser minds, painfully slips off our grasp. Now, as if these irritations are not enough, some members of our own flock have even gone ahead to brand themselves IT Lawyers!

I think this puts Justice Onwuzurumba’s wrath earlier this morning in its proper context.
We were in court enduring his particularly tremulous monotone, while our respective clients literally slept on their various rights.  Then a loud beep! That unmistakable ping signaling a Blackberry notification. The accompanying silence was deafening, as the bespectacled eyes of M’Lord were instantly lit with raging flames. ‘That was a phone that rang, wasn’t it?’ he drawled with glacial calm. We all sat mute, except of course for the few SANs that looked back with theatrically shocked expressions at this sacrilege from the Bar’s pedestrian section. They proceeded to mutter their disapproval but M’Lord screamed them down, (storms certainly have their bright spots) repeating his question in a more Siberian intonation. 
Surely, the ice in his voice must have been the cause of such terrible quivering in every young lawyer in the room. ‘I will not hesitate to dock the lot of you for contempt, if the owner of the device that just disturbed my court is not immediately brought to my notice’. Who could question his powers to wield such a stick, considering that current legislation on contempt is as long (or short) as the Judge’s temper. Well, everyone was spared testing that possibility as a trembling young wig staggered up and in a strangled voice admitted guilt in a flurry of bows. So much for having a Bold .

M’Lord fixed him with a stare and motioned him towards the bench.
‘You dare to keep your phone on in my court?!’(If the circumstances were friendlier, it would have been reassuring to know that his Lordship’s voice was capable of some form of animation after all.)
‘Yes my Lord, I mean, sorry my Lord’ Mr. all-a-quiver blurted out.
‘You RECEIVE phone calls while I sit!!!
‘No my Lord, I would do no such thing my Lord, it was merely my Facebook notification, my Lord…’
‘And that means…?’
“My client, sir…your Lordship…I just received notification on my Blackberry that my client has sent in a list of documents relevant to the present suit sir…my Lord, sir.’
‘I see.’ M’Lord let drop a wry smile. ‘You are able to browse with your phone?’
Unsure of the import of the query, the poor counsel could only nod weakly. The rest of the lawyers sucked in their breaths, dreading to exhale. The old Justice never failed to suffer fools. Whether he did so gladly, his perpetually dour visage would never reveal.

‘A young wig and already grown so irreverent of the law to go on Facebook while my court holds!’
‘No my Lord, I was not on the network… I just received notification when he sent it…Regrettably I forgot to switch it on silent mode.’ (There was suddenly a subtle scent of soiled pants)
‘Listen to how much of a serious lawyer you paint yourself to be.’ The Justice hissed. ‘You build your case from a social network?’
‘No my Lord, what he posted me on Facebook is a link that leads to another web page where I can get the materials’ It must have been the flames in his eyes, but I noticed that here, His Lordship’s face grew slightly beclouded.
‘You see…’ He swung a rigid fore-finger at the court. ‘I keep saying it, the standard is falling! Every day it is falling! In our time we stayed awake devouring volumes of books. Books, well researched and written by verifiable professionals. These days you all flee to the internet bringing in quotes from dubious sources. The law has never been a profession of convenience; it requires the most painstaking efforts. What do we have now? A situation where a man professed to the nobility of it all chooses to bring the junk of a teenage past-time into our temple!’

‘But My Lord…’ the counsel began, but a collective gasp instantly smothered the rest of his protest.
‘And the impudence! He talks back at me! He feels so ahead-of-the-times, he forgets his place! Let me tell you, I was a lawyer for 20 years before ascending to the Bench, where I have conscientiously given another 25 years to this profession. I have seen technologies come and go, each seeking to outdo the other in rattling the law. But here we have stood firmly against the bandwagon effect, the few amendments to our laws being unnecessary concessions by alarmist legislators. You sit here, an untested greenhorn feeling technology savvy and bristling with flimsy modernity…The law is not a modern profession! It is the most ancient and conservative of orders. We have no need for the likes of you, and I will not fail to precipitate your ignonimous route to the exit. All cases for today are hereby stood down, and counsel shall immediately proceed to the dock to satisfy this court with reasons why he should not suffer a conviction for contempt in my court!
………………..                   ………………………….                 ……………………….
In cases like this, the camaraderie of lawyers is exceptional. Pleas and entreaties…Chastisement and reproach were fervently recommended over the shame of conviction. My Lord, mercy… he is just a first offender...and the noose eventually lifted over the counsel’s neck.

I was initially shocked by the Judge’s negative passion, not that one expects civil treatment from a person bent on creating a criminal. But on further reflection, I guess he did what he should. He performed his role, the Law’s defender against the impetuous kicks of technology. If the law compromises just a bit, the wave of further revolutionary intrusions would be limitless.  
Well, for the time being, I breathe easier, having only been deprived the use of my Blackberry as a lesser punishment. But for as long as I live, I will keep trying to unravel the silent plea behind the judge’s anger as I stood before him.

In the meanwhile, let’s go post a new comment on Facebook: TODAY, I WAS ALMOST CONVICTED FOR CONTEMPT!


Tuesday, 8 June 2010


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My mind’s made up; I am going back to litigation! I was at one of those ‘Legal’ conferences where the only thing that kept you awake was the very struggle to keep your eyes open amidst the bland, jargon-ridden chunks of verbosity. The massive attendance showed the extents lawyers can go, to get a good sleep. In my quest for more animate diversion, I picked up the programme of events again; puckering my brows in studied concentration for the benefit of the present speaker whose eyes for some uncanny reason always fell on me. The programme promised more hours of speeches and roundtable discussions ahead, nightmare! But wait, one item stood out of the long list of dreary events, directly aligned to Lunch. (Talk of peas in a pod) It was also the simplest term on the entire document: NETWORKING…hmmm…

Unconsciously, my eyes skimmed the crowd to gauge the prospects along that line. Directly beside me was a bunch of oldies in ill tailored jackets, scribbling away and nodding furiously in turns at the speaker’s every monotone. I had blanked them out entirely when they broke into a noisy argument before the start of the event, referring to exact subsections of the constitution complete with paraphrases of judicial decisions with respect to the culpability or otherwise of a certain cradle-snatching senator. It was too late to switch seats, so I carried my cross. 
Craning my neck a little more to the left, I scanned the entire venue past some gum chewing bulky female seniors, and a prematurely balding personage who had unashamedly surrendered to the more alluring tunes of Morpheus, until my eyes rested on wow! (So they still craft lawyers this good?) Four well-attired, cute young ladies. They were looking on with bored looks and I immediately felt some kindred spirit…we definitely shared a common network.
The longest three hours in my life finally limped to an end and the MC who packed an incredible array of arid jokes announced the glorious duo: ‘Lunch and Networking!’ 

I must have pushed myself through to the exit away from the stifling legal air as the varied aroma of lunch wafted through. (I’m still stuck in this profession probably just because lawyers have never failed to dine and wine right.) However, gluttony was not my sole motivation this time; I also strove to sit on the same table with people whose appearances (and chit-chat) will go down well with the dishes, I therefore steered clear of the fat, the old and the male!
I made a show of queuing up with the rest, but all the while combing the tables…over there, two Senior Advocates pumping their hands furiously, no way! One of them had earlier made a joke about a separate buffet to be reserved for the gents of the inner bar. SANs…don’t they just make you silk!
Thankfully, I espied the dames again, hmmm…good smiles to go with the gleaming ensemble, I wasn’t missing that. I stalked and stalked, until I got to their table. Tables were laid for ten people, so I had adequate easement. Immediately the good ladies sat down, I made my grand appearance. I will not bore you with details of my moulded-to-a perfect-fit Canali suit and classy pocket hanky tailored in consonance with my tie. Ok, the shoes had seen better days, but fortunately the ladies were apparently not the sort to look down on people as they kept their glances above the table cloth. ‘Please is that seat taken?’ I couldn’t believe I was able to conjure that velvety baritone from my voice box. 

I have never been an expert on women, but damn me if I did not see general flickers of interest on their eyebrows. I ate silently for some minutes listening to their polished exchanges, (food never digested better), trying to decide the ideal manner to inroad into their conversation. From their gist I found out they were colleagues, on internship from Law School. I could tell the dizzying effect my introduction would have on their green horns: I am attached to the Conflict Resolution Unit of an International Corporate Practice focused on borderless negotiations…but the opportunity never came as three breezy young (male!) lawyers pulled out seats and sat with us.
They introduced themselves and proceeded to shake the ladies’ hands!…I gasped and turned, expecting to see the ladies recoil at this classless display, considering that I, their longer acquaintance, had done the gentlemanly thing of waiting patiently… (Albeit unsuccessfully) for that physical honour. But to my horror, the girls warmly returned the greeting, all smiles. Within the minute, the table became a flurry of arguments and one-liners, and these invaders monopolized every subject. One of the girls couldn’t help gushing ‘Hilarious! This table was so dull before you guys joined, it now feels like there are lawyers here, what area of practice are you guys into…?’ I was deserted…even before the last course.

‘What else do lawyers do?’ grinned the most odious of the toxic trio, a lanky fellow called Wale. ‘We go to court’
I had to interject here ‘Come on, you guys have to be joking, we all know that’s archaic thinking, Law has grow beyond the courts. I’ve never been in one myself…’
‘Go and sit down, my friend’ another countered, ‘That is what you so-called corporate lawyers deceive yourselves with. Listen, the teacher’s place is in school, the lawyer’s in court, period!’ I could feel the blood pounding on my face at this nursery logic, but, relax it! The girls had to see who the better man was.
‘I disagree’ I forced the bile down. ‘The contemporary world is more business minded; we are even leaving the courts for arbitration. Where does that leave you guys with your lengthy pleadings, affidavits and motions?’ I took another five minutes to educate them on how the International Conflict Resolution sphere was the next best thing and how our firm was a pace setter… until bursts of derisive merriment cut me short.
‘Our point exactly!’ screamed the third of the pack. ‘Contemporary world, International pace-setting, blah blah blahimpressive phrases that corporate lawyers deploy to conceal their cowardice in the face of real cerebral battleLitigation is the ultimate test of your legal abilities. We did not major in business negotiations; we are trained gladiators for the intriguing clash of legal minds in the temples of justice. Why do we have senior advocates, not senior solicitors? The law doesn’t solicit. As far as Mother Justice is concerned, we are her legitimate children, corporate lawyers are strays…’

‘Rubbish’, I snarled trying to drown the sudden applause coming from the girls. ‘It is not true at all! You litigation hustlers are the ones that routinely insult the profession, with your unsought solicitations. The comfort zone of outdated courts shield you from the real world…you hide behind adjournments and preliminary objections as an excuse for a life of barely disguised idleness, spitting sections of laws you memorize more out of sheer habit than any independent thought process…’
‘And I suppose independent thought process means indiscriminate downloading of precedent books in drafting agreements, sipping coffee and biscuits in airy rooms while confusing poor business owners with untested legal opinions in the form of ‘corporate advice?’ Wale was enraged now. The equivalent of a Senior Advocate in corporate practice is the Company Secretary, and then what does the company secretary even do, apart from filling in templates from the Corporate Affairs Commission?...You know that you are not worthy to wear the wig and the gown, it scares the guts out of you… (Wait let me finish!) Can you face a judge? In your business you are counsel and judge at the same time, and your clients don’t know any better
Every day, in front of our clients, we pass through intensive intellectual scrutiny from the astute Bench and come out better lawyers, dedicated to the time long intendment of the legal profession…advocating for justice within the specified ambit.  You talk of being in conflict resolution, without force of law? Let the day come that the court’s powers are completely ousted in any agreement and I will eat my wig- which by the way, will grow silken in just a few more years. And all the attendant privileges that accrue to a worthy son of the learned vocation shall remain elusive to you as long as you continue betraying our hallowed tenets on the altar of immediate financial gratification.’ He turned to the increasingly enraptured ladies. ‘Never trust them, with their oily suaveness; see how he silently sat here all along, mind full of scheming. Typical corporate shark I tell you! It took honest, open-faced folks like us to make you start enjoying your lunch. Frankness is our key word! Real Lawyers are real men…corporate lawyers are sissy!’

‘The girls were nodding vigorously now in hypnotic worship. ‘Real lawyers are real men…wow!’ I heard one whisper to her friends with a dazed expression, as the three men drew out their call-cards which the girls scrambled to grab. ‘Give us a call anytime, legal action always speaks louder than words…’

The bell signaling the end-of lunch/networking chimed, and the tables emptied. I stared at my hands… I had grabbed their call-cards as well. (Sometimes i just hate myself!)


First published in Thisday Newspapers: June 8, 2010