My Grouse: Between My Salary and My Principal’s Annual Vacation

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As a young chap growing up with so many enthusiasm of joining the noble profession, I must confess that my expectations were very high. Indeed, they were very high. I had always considered the profession as an enclave of nobility. I saw the legal profession as a gathering of royals whose royalty evolved by the very reason of the knowledge which rest in their breasts. I took the cliché “Lawyers are Learned while others are educated” very dear to my heart. Sometimes remembering the thoughts, memories and expectations that filled my subconscious in my formative years bring uncontrollable tears to my bothered eyes.

I am now a lawyer, the thoughts, memories and expectations of yesterday have turned to be my present mirage. How I wish I am here saying it all turned to realities. There are a few realities, nay mirage of the legal profession which I wish to share. They are the very reason why I have severally questioned the soundness of my early life professional choices. The little experience I am about to share are the things that need to be thought to secondary school councilors for appropriate knowledge on what an aspiring lawyer should expect in the “noble” profession. I am saying this with all sincerity of purpose.

I have always lived in a “fool’s world” where I believed that as a lawyer I could always express my thoughts. The mirage of my propositions dawned on me in my first three years of practice. The routine with my then principal were highly unpalatable. The man would never give me a process to prepare. He would say derogatorily “what do you know?” these comments often come at those times when I go out of my consciousness to request that he allows me prepare a draft of an outstanding process for his review. At some other times when he finds himself in a fairly good mood, he would reluctantly hand over a file to me and say “go and prepare this or that, let’s see what you come up with”. After spending productive time on sample templates and delivering the draft, the reactions are always negative. On one of such occasions, he actually threw the entire file at me and while I was fighting tears from rolling down my cheek, he said “that is how Gani would throw file at you if you had given him that rubbish”. I knew then that I did not have much to offer but, it was not as bad as he always makes them look. Besides, it was my very first years and all I needed was patience and support. I feared that there was something I didn’t learn from university and law school. The dehumanization went on for three years until one day I made up my mind that it was time to leave.

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When I joined my present firm, I thought that my horrific days are over, I never knew that the terror of the profession comes in many shades. This is the seventh month I am spending with my new principal and for the past six months, my salary which is a paltry sum of N30, 000 is paid only at the pleasure of my principal.  Everything that has to do with billing client and receiving money from client are shrouded in mystery. Are there things in this profession that the gods are meant to teach me? Shouldn’t I learn how to do everything including billing from my principal? Why all these mystery?  I am not allowed to interact with clients; I have to make special application to take files home when I have to go to certain courts where it would be impracticable to get to the office before getting to court. I kept wondering what the issue is really.

The event that has led me to writing this piece is an experience which occurred yesterday and which makes me wonder whether I now have answers for the whole mystery. If that is the answer, then it smacks of pettiness!

My Principal called me and said I needed to go to TBS Lagos to meet his travel agent. He requested me to deliver some bank tellers to the agent. I collected the tellers and on my way, out of curiosity, I peeped into the tellers and saw payments of some millions into designated account by my principal, I didn’t know what the payment was for so I just slipped the tellers back into the envelope and went to the travel agent. Part of what was going on in my head during the rest of my journey to TBS was the fact that this tellers are monies paid few hours ago and my May salary of 30k is still outstanding.

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But on getting to the agent, I got the rudest shock of my existence. The moment I gave him the envelope and introduced who sent me and he opened the envelope, he started disclosing all that I didn’t care or want to know. He told me how my principal is so serious about annual vacations (It was not the first time I heard it) he told me how he loves the best places in the world, how he would not do economy class with his family. When I couldn’t take all the unsolicited information anymore, I told him I needed to take my leave because I had other errands.

The moment I stepped out of the travel agency, I felt as if my whole world had collapsed in my very before. I felt I had wasted my opportunity to choose a fulfilling career. Now I am at a fix. Gentlemen, does my principal’s act not amount to professional misconduct? Can I report this to the Legal Practitioner Disciplinary Committee? Should I just leave the office and try my luck in yet another law firm.

I am just very depressed.

My Grouse – venting my frustrations!

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