My Grouse: Dear Principals, What Exactly do you mean by “Do-Your-Thing”?

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Let me do an unsupported statistics. The Nigerian Legal community is predominantly middle class; only about 5% of law firms in Nigeria are world class. Over 70% of law firms in Nigeria are below average. Only 20% of law firms in Nigeria give proper employment package. Law firms trying to keep their heads above administrative costs are in the majority in Nigeria. The above represent the statistics of the Nigerian Legal community as I have it inside my head. Please don’t come and argue with me abeg. Forming statistics in your head is legal in a society where none exist.

The credibility of the above “inside-my-head-statistics” is further strengthened by the number of law firms that would rather welcome you with the popular phrase; “I may not be able to pay you well but we can allow you to do your own thing.” When you hear this phrase, the idea you form immediately is; I would be paid peanut (yea, this happens), I would be given the platform to get my own briefs and handle them in the office (this most times doesn’t happen). I will also be able to use the office address for my correspondences (this happens temporarily). As long as I make the office briefs priority, everything would work just fine (for your mind).

Reality scandalizes you, if you approach the “do-your-thing” arrangement with the above mindset. You would realize rather soon that even the Principal that says you should do your thing does not understand what he meant.

How do you say to  young lawyers (and older ones sometimes) to do their things and set the rules you eventually end up breaking. “Doing-your-thing” means, don’t expect the firm to pay you. No matter what the firm earns, you are not part of it. You must make the firm’s work priority. You must ensure that whatever personal things you do must not affect the firm’s work. All these, and the Principal would still be nosing to find out how successful the counsel has turned in “doing-his-thing”

I witnessed something rather very pathetic. A Principal in the “do-your-thing’ circle did something very despicable. He is notorious with bringing in many young lawyers and using the life out of them in the guise of “do-your-thing”. Unfortunately to him, one of those juniors is brother to a top management staff in one of the oil servicing firm. He secured a land transaction for the young junior who in turn coopted his fellow “do-your-thing” counsel and they packaged the transaction and made something close to N100m. That was when the Principal became aware of the transaction. He went to the extent of threatening to report the junior to LPDC. For what, you may ask. He was with you for years while you did your thing and he did his.

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I said it before, I will say it again; this idea of asking young lawyers to come and work with you and do-their-thing has always backfired. It is like being smart by half. If you do not have the means of paying younger lawyers, be magnanimous enough to give them a stake in what you have and be sincere and transparent enough to work in harmony with them, otherwise, please do your thing yourself and hire lawyers only when you can give proper employment strictly speaking.


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