Diary of a Rookie Lagos Lawyer (5): When Determination Isn’t Enough

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Court appearance has been one hell of a roller coaster for me. One moment I get it very right and I am all so proud of myself thinking this isn’t bad after all, the next moment I am on a downward slope feeling so terrible and wishing I could just quit.

I made sure to recover from the shock and pain of my disappointing first court appearance with massive encouragement from seniors in the office who assured me it was nothing extra and told their first experiences as well. With their support, I kept hope alive and was able to appear again in court. However, I don’t seem to understand why things still go up the hill and down the slope.  I presume that I am supposed to have gotten used to these exigencies of practice. I work in an office that is extremely busy. My first few weeks, I thought assigning me to court every day, back to back was occasional, I have since discovered that it is actually the norm. I am supposed to have stopped fidgeting while announcing my appearance; I should be in control; I should be able to look the judge in the face while I speak my mind with respect. I should be able to interject when counsel on the other side is making it look like I am the bad one. I should be getting ready and convincing myself that I can  argue an originating summons or conduct trials.

It’s been four full months since I started appearing in Court. On the average, I appear in court alone twice a week, yet it still feels strange. I still have to battle with my gaits.  It still feel like I don’t belong here (Litigation).  During my last appearance in court with Senior MO, I marveled at how some of these lawyers respond on their feet and wondered if this would ever be possible with me. How would I be able to get to the point where I would not be clueless as to my response in court? How would I be able to argue my points?

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All my life I have always known that once I am determined, I make things happen until now.  I recall writing JAMB three times because I wanted to study law at all cost. I was in my first year studying Political Science in one of the Private Universities when my admission to study law came through. I wrote JAMB again without my parent’s consent while in school and made the merit list of a Federal University in Nigeria. By determination I got second class upper in both my LLB and BL. Determination got me one of the best law firms to work with as a Corps member when my friends settled for teaching and the rest.

Going back to the basis a little bit, while deciding to study law, I looked beyond just becoming a lawyer. I carried out every research within my capacity to find the peak of the legal profession. I recall my dad’s lecture which I carefully wrote down on a treasured book; “You either become a Professor of Law, a Senior Advocate or a Judge; these are all peaks. The  easiest means of becoming a professor would be to take the academic route and become a lecturer. Becoming a Senior Advocate of Nigeria would mean you develop uncommon interest in litigation and handle cases up to the Supreme Court. But note; this route is less travelled by female lawyers in Nigeria. You have just a few of them. The third option of being a Judge is like the former. You may become a judge while in private practice, but the faster route is to work with the Ministry of Justice; rise through the ranks, become a High Court Judge, then you have the opportunity to become the Chief Judge if you become the most senior before retirement or distinguish yourself and get elevated to the Courts of Appeal and then Supreme Court.” That is how inquisitive I can be.

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Armed with the above knowledge, I settled with the resolve to explore becoming either a  SAN or a Judge. Both would require being in constant touch with the Courtroom. Why then do I feel this amount of discouragement? The type that my entire might is not able to subdue. Why do I feel this disappointed? One thing about disappointment is that it brings discouragement which  ultimately make  you unable to take control of your inner strength.

While still battling with myself, I had the rare privilege of chatting with our Principal during the week. Rare privilege because, I was told that even employees spend up to one year before having the privilege of a one on one with him. There must have been a reason. I was told to go in and have a chat. I do not wish to preempt anything but during our chat, I mentioned to him that I have tried so much to stay focused and encouraged but consistently feel like I am not supposed to be in court. He was deep in thought wearing an indiscernible expression. What could that be? Perhaps they told him something different from what he is seeing. May be he thinks my curiosity is exciting may be not. Well we talked and at some point my Principal suggested that I am being hard on myself. He told me to slow it down. He said the feelings are normal. He said to give it time and finally he confirmed that I can become a SAN or even a judge!

Those should excite me but they don’t. I still feel lost, I still feel like a round peg in a square hole, yet, the thought of going into corporate practice is also not exciting. The thought of abandoning the dream of becoming a Judge or SAN makes me feel like all the efforts were indeed a waste.

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Is this a phase? If it is, will it pass? , the shock, discouragement and disappointments are not giving me the hope that things would eventually change? Does my pessimistic posture annoy you? Then I welcome you to my world where my determination has failed to clear my doubts!

I am also annoyed with ME!

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