THE REALITY OF BEING A YOUNG LAWYER IN NIGERIA
BY FEYI SOPE
The Legal Profession all over the world is a noble one. Five arduous years of training in the University to obtain an LL.B certificate, one thorough year in the Law school for a B.L and the continuous reading even after acquiring the certificates are enough to declare it a “Noble Profession.” Much is expected from the one who bears a wig on his head, a collaret or bib around his neck and robe over his suit. It is beyond the impeccable use of English or a fat dictionary in his hands to create an impression, they must be all-knowing. They must know what to say to free a man falsely accused of murder, wisdom must be embedded in them to correctly advice a business man who wants to enter into an agreement and the great Lawyers risk their lives to obtain justice for the oppressed. These obligations amongst others are the reasons Lawyers in Nigeria are often referred to as Learned.
The above heroic responsibilities usually prompts people to become Lawyers. You probably love the prestige that comes with the dark flowing robe, the spotless white bib or collarets attached to their necks and the golden wigs covering their heads as they walk down the hallway of the court room with big books in their hands. You are enticed by their grammar and the Latin expressions employed by them. Maybe you also like the concept of an individual seated by the left side of the Judge while the Lawyer does the talking.
Well, here is the truth about being fresh out of the Nigerian Law School.
You will realise that there is nothing majestic about the Robe and the wig because often times the power supply is interrupted, hence the air conditioners will not be able to relieve you of the sweltering heat beneath that thick suit and the robe. Also, you will not get to speak as swiftly and sophisticatedly like they do in How to get away with murder, because the Judge has to record manually, everything the Lawyers or witnesses say. Hence, the snail-paced speech.
Lawyers waste time. They waste more time than a bride on her wedding day. If you are impatient and you like to get things done quickly, Law practice in Nigeria can snatch that attribute away from you. Just when you are excited over a scandal matter the court is about to hear, you hear irrelevant statements like, ‘My Lord, this document does not bear a stamp. It cannot be admissible to the court as evidence’ and other statements that wastes the precious time of the court. As the clock ticks away and your favourite television show comes to an end, you will be seated in court grudgingly watching the Judge as he writes a ruling on whether or not the document can be admitted on the absence of a stamp. Then the excitement of the subject matter of the case begins to wither away.
Often times, you will get yelled out by your Principal for not knowing something you were not taught in the Law school. Other times you do the research work for the “big boys”, they take the glory while you walk in their shadows, dragging the bag of books behind them as you step out of the courtroom. Let us not talk about the starting salary, it is quite depressing. Senior Lawyers can earn millions of naira from a brief but when it’s pay day, it will feel like you worked in a start-up store as a cashier. Unless you land in one of the “big Firms”, then lucky you.
Practice is time consuming, it is like a mistress who always wants the attention and affection of her lover, regardless of his other legitimate responsibilities. You just need to be invested in it. There is always something to do and the results leaves you wondering, if it is worth the investment.
In spite of these harsh realities, do not to give up.
The good things of life hardly come easy, the celebrated Legal Practitioners were once young and somehow, they turned out okay. Do not get tired of working hard or reading relevant materials or taking your Principal’s unbearable attitude.
Here’s something I learned watching Game of Thrones: The Lord Commander of the Night’s watch before Jon Snow attained that position asked him, “Do you want to lead one day? You must learn to follow.”
Learn from your Principal or Head of Chamber even though you cannot stand them. It will make you a better person only if you focus on the bigger picture. You will be glad you didn’t give up as the years go by.
Ten years from now, I am certain I will be writing ‘tips on how to be a successful Lawyer.’ Until then, cheers to the reality of being a young Lawyer.
This is a good read. Truth is most Nigerian lawyers are underpaid! Like you’ll hear the ridiculous amount of money some lawyers are paid and you will be shook . The best thing is to constantly give yourself options.
This masterpiece is so Apt and very relatable. Well done Feyisope
Thanks for the share. Always refreshing to have unadultrated truths. 😉
Those of us desperate for success remember this story all too well. Albeit a different profession but the story is fondly similar to that we ourselves treaded. Very well put! You cannot exempt hope and faith in your Maker while making that climb though. It’s what kept the FIRE burning in our chest and kept the drum beats rolling; especially in this country of ours called Nigeria. Well done and keep up the good work!
Reality of life that applies to almost every profession, without belittling the legal profession. This is a good write up that every aspiring successful lawyer or fresh graduates should read. Thank you and well done.
A pretty decent & insightful article. Just when I thought everything seemed rosy for young lawyers once called to bar & when they rock their white et black regalia, then boom! Harsh reality plays the joker card.