Litigation for a young Lawyer is the first love even while in the university. While in the university there is this great desire to be a known advocate when you graduate from the law school. Infact while in the university some of the law faculties organize moot court trials where live cases are adjudicated upon by a presiding judge of the Student Union Judicial Council. Chambers bearing known and reputable names are opened and law students who are interested in litigation naturally apply to be members of these chambers. Names like late Justice Oputa, late Lord Denning, late Justice Kayode Esho, etc are usually the names of these great chambers in the university.
My humble self was elected the Chief Judge of the University of Nigeria in 1988 and appearing before me were senior Advocates of the university of Nigeria known as SAUN (these are mainly final year law students of the faculty of law in the university). It was fun as great skills of advocacy, research and confidence are usually learnt and imbibed while carrying out such extra curricula activities in the university. I cannot forget a nutty constitutional crises that arose after the election in one of the faculties and the case was brought before my court as the Chief Judge of the University. I clearly dissected the legal puzzle and delivered an unassailable judgement that received an affirmative confirmation by a three man panel of the court of appeal which is the final appellate court of the university. That decision settled the intractable problem of that faculty and brought to an abrupt end the crises that was threatening to tear the faculty and by extension the university apart.
The process appeared amusing and regarded as not too serious aspect of our stay in the university but the truth of the matter is that that is the koko of the matter, it is the real essence and substance of why we were in the university especially those who intend to practice law by way of litigation when they graduate. My point is that the interest in litigation and sustaining it may be developed in the university if the university has created the right academic atmosphere that will ensure that the desire in litigation is given an impetus or sustenance while in school. Hope I am clearly understood? However, even if the university does not provide the right atmosphere for it to thrive, a litigation lawyer who has the desire for it will be eager to have a mentor immediately after finishing his or her service for the nation. Getting a busy chamber to learn the ropes should be the first and utmost desire of a serious minded litigation young lawyer.
1. How are briefs taken?
2. What you lookout for in a client’s story to decipher reliefs he or she is seeking.
3. Opening of the files and assembling of the stories in the files.
4. Getting a written instruction to act.
5. Charging for consultation/opening of files/charging of fees/ talk more on this.
6. preparing for claims/defense.
7. Your written addresses/briefs if it is on appeal
8. The filing process (be careful what you file cross the t’s and dot the I’s).
9. Following up on service and assignment to a court.
10. Commencement of trial
11. Review your cases weekly with yourself if you are the only one in chambers or with your lawyers if you are two or more.
Apart from a lawyer being equipped with various kinds of knowledge, legal education is all-encompassing and broad based, a young lawyer can use part of his knowledge to make meaningful contribution to nation building.
Examples are abound like where lawyers with their legal training engage in civil society, advocacy, involving in various NGOs with diverse objectives or like me who engage in legal training of Nigerians using the mainstream and social media platforms. Few year ago I received an offer from a reputable Radio Station in Lagos to be educating Nigerians on the issue of their legal rights (know your right with Mr. Ubani) I did that for up to 4 years at a stretch.
Today I have offers from two other radio stations and a Television house for a continuation of such a program using their media houses. I have issue with my tight schedule and that is why I am sort of turning down their offers. I may take up one when i am a bit free.
The objective of the program is to enlighten Nigerians and lead them into the knowledge that they have rights which can be enforced in our courts once that right is breached or trampled upon either by private or public citizens. They are usually advised to seek counsel and direction on how to enforce their rights using lawyers. In this enlightenment process, the ultimate gains are to spread knowledge and to create jobs and opportunities for lawyers and by extension to the legal profession in general.
Recently I have received requests from some junior lawyers in two states of the Federation who want to start such a program and they needed me to guide them appropriately and I did.
I also run a foundation, Onyekachi Ubani’s foundation. My humble background is implicated here. Having suffered some discomforts as a young man due to no fault of mine I made up my mind earlier to use my own little resources to affect lives in my own little way. It was formally launched last year in Lagos Sheraton. By August this year we would have been one year legally. But before the formal launch, we have been operating as a body. Our foundation has saved several lives and turned peoples lives around. The three notable ones were Baby Somaya who had a heart surgery in India and when successful, MTN with Praise (the Musician collaborated) and raised N10m for the poor girl. The little girl is today a landlady in Lagos. I also remember the victims of Dana Airline crash that occurred sometime in Nigeria. We raised the sum of N1.5m and shared it amongst some of the land victims where the crash occurred. Some of them have not forgotten that gesture as our little effort provided accommodation and succor to most of them who were neglected by the government and Dana Airline at that time.
The latest cheering news is the donation of wheel chair and a car to a physically challenged colleague of ours who is a member of Ikeja Branch of NBA last year December. Our foundation did this gesture in conjunction with some fair and generous minded lawyers in the Branch. I can go on and on to itemize ventures our foundation has done as part of the auxiliary activities of a lawyer who is eager and patriotic to contribute his quota to nation building. That reminds me – Ubani’s foundation promoted the virtues of a young woman who found and returned lost N12m to the owner in Lagos. After promoting her virtue in both mainstream and social media by our Foundation, the lady was rewarded with a street name in Enugu state, her home state, an employment with Federal Airport Authority, a job offer from Enugu state government, various local and national awards with generous cash rewards, and gift items and to crown her with glory the good Lord we serve gave her a husband last year November. She was over 40 years with no husband but after all the promotion of what she did, she was finally discovered by a man who has eyes.
There are much more we can do as legal practitioners both professionally, socially and otherwise to develop ourselves, the nation and affect lives generally around us.
The world is our stage too large to occupy. Define and pursue your dream. Dream big and achieve big.
In conclusion note this you are being watched both in court and outside court room. Be a model in hardwork, honesty, integrity, commitment patriotism and in all other godly virtues. There is no other profession like the legal profession, it is the most respected, the most revered, the most honourable, the noblest and the most sought after profession. Consider it a privilege that your part of it, do everything humanly possible not to denigrate it but to multiply the positives for all to see (Jesus said if I be lifted up I will draw men to myself) let us lift the legal profession up as young lawyers and draw all the glory, accolades, rewards to ourselves. Amongst you here are Presidents of the Bar, Chairmen, Secretaries of the Bar, Ambassadors, Governors, Legislators, Presidents of the country, Ministers, Judges of the various courts, SANs, renowned legal practitioners. Do not allow any misdemeanor, misbehavior, misconduct and downright stupidity to deprive you of this great honour and privilege the profession has bestowed on you.
THE GOLDEN RULE
1. Do not misappropriate your client’s money
2. Do not engage in any form of criminality
3. Avoid Immorality as much as possible
4. Be dedicated
5. Be respectful
6. Be friendly
7. Read widely as a lawyer
8. Be Meticulous
9. Set timetable for your goals and finally
10. Be godly
If you do this the sky is your beginning. Go in this thy might.
Cabin Crew, Take your seat for landing and the Airplane finally lands successfully.
*** Monday Ubani is 2nd Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association.