Tuesday, 3 February 2009


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I love fantasies; often I have been called a head-lost-in-the-clouds dreamer. I love that tag. Dreams are not always the escapist pastime of a slothful mind- they may subconsciously provide the seedlings for the birth of great ideas. Yes, dreams are not real, but when they come to life, present reality changes. Dreams precipitate change. As a dreamer therefore, I am an agent of change…
I had lapsed into this philosophico-poetic mood after I was roundly battered in an argument with some of my young lawyer friends the other day. We were discussing the sense (or lack of it) in the restriction of advertisements in the legal profession in Nigeria, by the Rules of Professional Conduct. I was passionately of the view that the provisions of the rules are too stifling and inconsistent with the modern world.

All the publicity the Rules allow is; a reasonably sized sign-post in front of the practitioner’s office.
‘Many people do not even notice those signs, their bleary black and white prints are swallowed by more interesting items on the landscape’ I had stated. ‘Can you win clients that way?’
‘Massai’ My ultra-conservative friend Edward had interjected ‘a good lawyer needs not be aided by psychedelia, let your records speak.’
‘But that is the point!’ I had screamed ‘how do you transmit the said records without adverts?’
‘Simple, does the law not permit you to affix your qualifications on your business cards?’  that was from Mike, another incurable stiff-back.
‘It is not enough’ I insisted ‘we need to spice up the whole thing a lot more’
‘Do you then recommend that we slide to the arena of pedestrian trivia?’ Samuel-every inch a stuffed shirt - murmured.
‘Yes!’ I was getting heated up. ‘We need to leave our lofty pinnacle and approach equal altitude with the people we are supposed to serve in the first place…’
My friend, I think you have what it takes to conquer the world, but first you must wake up from your silly dreams’ Edward delivered the masterstroke.
The rest of my well laid submissions were drowned in laughter.

Now in my quiet moment, I am convinced more than ever that my views are workable.
People complain that the law goes over their heads, lawyers are a mysterious horde, and thus, it takes a fair dose of courage to walk into the hallowed interiors of their sepulchral chambers. End result; the propagation of a populace completely apathetic to litigation and invariably, a proliferation of poor lawyers.
Where then is the dignity which the rules seek to preserve?

What is the way forward? Easy, obliterate the rules!
First, lawyers should be allowed to do away with the reasonable size and sober design cliché from their sign-posts and in their stead, put up eye-catching, life size billboards, amply bedecked with neon lights. Having done this, the lawyers’ gifts of imagination which have been asphyxiated over the years shall be given new life. Their battle of wits will seep beyond the confines of cross-examination and evolve into bits of humorous catchphrases for their law firms.
Slogans like: ‘You will never turn in your Grave…’ inscribed boldly at the bottom corner of business cards and posters will better buttress expertise in Wills and Testaments than a dry list of L.L.M.s and L.L.D.s. In the same vein, the words: ‘When the Police is not your Friend, We kick his butt’ bestows a Charge and Bail specialist with more class and appeal. And if you want to sweep home all the clients in town, a most fitting slogan is: ‘At Z & I Group…we dine with the judges…’

This will be followed by press-conferences, interviews and documentaries of landmark cases where the firm had obtained favourable judgement. It will become common while flipping through the pages to see colourful promos broadcasting:
An Irresistible Litigation Bundle Offer from the Law Offices of Clement & George.
Submit three briefs in 6months and win yourself a pro bono case!
Hurry while offer lasts…

Not to be beaten, a rival Law firm will contract a rave of the moment celebrity, say D’Banj to appear on national TV, complete in his dark shades, plus the venerated wig and gown! : ‘if you are not sitting with S & J Associates, you are on a loooong case!’

Outside a few cardiac seizures to prim and proper hearts, the effect on the profession will be largely positive.

Law offices will overflow with customers, oops, clients; the movement would have bred a new mind-set in the citizens. We all hate what we cannot understand, so if the people get to recognize that the lawyer is just another average entrepreneur hustling for his daily bread and butter alongside other ordinary species of humanity, they shall open their arms wide in fraternity. The great wall of suspicion will collapse; a harmonious accord will be reached. The publicized competition will pull down litigation costs, creating a more legally responsive society… and the lawyers will reap the plums of increased patronage. It is Eldorado in the making!

Of course, to complete this revolution, every serious minded Law firm will engage in some bit of ambulance chasingThe phrase would be renamed to purge it of every derogatory taint, it will simply be called-Marketing. Paralegal staff and interns will be posted on strategic locations in the streets. (A welcome change from sitting and rotting away over mountains of case files). Everyday, persons get knocked down by over speeding cars, fall from dislodged kerbs and get hit by falling objects from overloaded trucks…The field staff will be on standby with sheaves of handbills. These handbills contain detailed workings of the victim-counsel settlement ratio when the negligence suit is won, and shall be distributed to families of the victims. When no family member is around, it will suffice to discreetly press same into the hands of the victim as he is being stretchered away.

Oh, I am dreaming again…
Reality is different; reality is contained in the Rules. The Rules say that unfettered advertisement brings the profession to disrepute, creates prejudice and does not foster fairness in the legal practice. Maybe this is right, maybe not…time will tell. Our world is being fast unravelled; there are no more sacred grounds. Flow with the stream or get stagnated behind. Last year, an Australian High court affirmed that court processes can be served on Facebook! What more can I say? I am eagerly waiting for our rules to be unbuckled to that degree. 
I already have the advert slogan for my law office waiting. I am keeping it simple: "Life is BRIEF; Get a Lawyer…"

I rest my thesis.

First published in Thisday Newspapers: February 3, 2009

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