Tuesday, 22 March 2011


I am in love with the movie The King’s Speech. It is the best movie in the world. To be honest though, I have not seen it yet. But every other person has, and they are all in love with it. I love the movie for what it achieved. Overnight; reliving the agonizingly gradual mastery of a royal-stutter becomes a massive global tonic. That is pure genius.
However on a closer look, it can easily move one into a state of introspective stock-taking. How many of what we consider our lives’ highlights would inspire more than a passing interest from outsiders? Let alone, our mundane struggles. How many times have you pushed your exciting photos into the hands of friends and regaled them with explanatory details on each shot, only to have them flee at the slightest leeway? How many people genuinely stay awake as you recount your running battle with ulcer, or your eventual victory over math? Maybe you would need to be a king first, or maybe it just requires publicity, of Hollywood proportions. (Or even Nollywood these days).
Well, deal with it, all ordinary persons. Ordinary persons like me…me? 

No, I am not an ordinary person, I am a lawyer. And for one in a profession desperately needy of crowd attention, I suffer even more.
Like every lawyer, I have read books, useful books. My brain swims in the famed Pierian Spring. There is very little under the sun that I have not encountered in my studious voyages. I consider myself a talker too, the one with all the stories and all the jokes. Well, that was before I observed that the reputation is restricted to the legal fold.
I had ruled my Uncle’s wife an unfortunate nit-wit when I noticed she makes funny faces whenever my back is turned. A detail revealed by the shiny mantel-piece in their living room. Her teenage children are loads smarter; they squeal in glee when I deliver yet another wicked legal punch-line at dinner, their brains match mine, wave length-for-wave-length. Or so I thought…Until a few weeks ago: a carelessly placed Blackberry, no password, my lawyer-inquisitiveness, and I saw the real source of their laughter at my jokes: Pings hastily exchanged under the table “Tell me what bores more than a yam beetle: Uncle Massai!” That was from Sammy, the one they say aspires to be a rap-artiste. And the sister concurs with a big LOL. I no longer go to my uncle’s. Poor man, no wonder he exited so early; who would bear having his pure genes so polluted by a spouse of dubious grey-matter.

Again, I digress. Digression, according to my more cerebral audience, is my best trick. “It injects versatility into a conversation” my colleague Sarah had once enthused as I blushingly handed her a Legal Opinion I had stayed up all night to help her prepare. She will go places, that lady.
But back to the topic, it really saddens me to know that if the movie above had been titled “The Lawyer’s Speech”, it would premiere to halls of vacant seats. The tragedy lies in the fact that, truly, if anybody make speeches worth listening to, Lawyers it should be! But nobody wants to listen when we talk, unless they absolutely have to.
Our cinemas- the courtrooms are bare. Even the litigants stay off. I have a feeling tennis would overtake football for popularity if the use of “court” was minimized. If they must be bought, legal publications are probably useful only in pharmaceutical stores…as sedatives.
Nobody invites us to be Masters of Ceremonies (I hope they still call them that) at colourful events and parties. The core of our social oratory is at funerals- the dead can’t be more asleep of course.

Worse, that obnoxious practice, blogging has pulled the rug further beneath us. Ad hoc Law reporters are now born every day. Not smart, but with access to smart-technology. In half the time it takes to flip through our large volumes, they click the download and tweet a link, spiced with cheap rhetoric and draw the entire crowd. We have fought bravely, but gradually, even the Law is seduced to the I.T. pavilion.

Yes, we have dealt the hand of living off the combative aspects of human nature, but modern life is moving for a checkmate. All the jokes are on us, we are colourless, we are dry, we are lonely. Words may have tried, but they are dying. It is the age of abbreviations. No… abbreviations are even growing outmoded, people now write in pictorials!
Pictures and TV have changed reality. Reality shows (Is there a bigger contradiction in terms!) have come to stay. Sadly, we are barred from their juicy reach (no adverts!). But wait a minute…think Boston Legal, and the rest of them, and voila! 
Therein lies our salvation! Reality TV!

They roll out in their numbers, subtle brand promos: the Scout, the Debater, the Search, the Heir…When you consider the spark they kindle in our huge population, and the stiff competition by professionals to become Apprentices, or even Dragons, it can only go a step worse…The Lawyer.

Procedure: Trigger off a nation-wide search process, sell entry forms, establish a consortium of banks, the media and the Bar (no Silks…please). A huge media-covered selection process (this is where the judges come in); and the Lawyer’s Den is ready to be unveiled.
Two dozen young aspirants. The winner becomes, well…a Lawyer. (The dream prospect of a Law School waiver will sell, trust me). Content should be varied, everything that obtains in the real world would be thrown in. (Lawyers are snubbed because we always appear larger than life). The show will have it all then, arguments, fights, mischief, romance, conspiracies, parties (not dinners!), scandals…yes scandals sell too; they are an admission of humanness.
Now, unlike what obtains in the courts where the slightest whisper attracts a contempt-charge, the audience can vote and freely pass comments. Their ratings will also extend to the judges and eviction is the immediate consequence of unpopularity.
Eight long weeks each edition will last. Five yearly editions; each producing a winner who represents the universal notion of an ideal lawyer. This personna gets integrated into the profession and among other prizes, wins an entitlement to vote out any five existing lawyers from the Roll. 

As the show grows, the viewers can demand that some existing lawyers be invited, nay, compelled to play. These will endure the same audience appraisal, and for every edition, twenty three lawyers will be debarred…democratically.

Many years will roll by before any impact is noticed from this process. But gradually and surely like the King’s stutter, the old stock of dry and boring lawyers will pass away. They will be replaced by substitutes who ooze mass-appeal, who will re-instill confidence in the Bar. Increased tolerance means increased clientele. Law becomes a competitive profession after all in today’s world.

Time will tell. At the end, lawyers will need no further convincing that life in front of cameras is actually the reel deal.

I rest my thesis.

First Published in Thisday Newspapers: March 22, 2011

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