Becoming A Brilliantly Poor Lawyer (II)


Continued from here

Pupilage or Not; a Lot Depend on You

We have all read stories about pupilage. Those who support this training for new wigs have as much point as those who are against it. However, this is not about the views held by the public. It is about you as an individual. It is about finding what works for you. If you are a new wig and you think pupilage is not for you while you are not privileged enough to have the means of setting up a descent office, you may wish to think again. Forget all the stories you have heard about pupilage and look for a law firm to work with. Let your concern not be the immediate quest for earnings. Resist the urge to join the category of “did they pay my law school fees for me.” We are not talking about daily meal here, we are talking about becoming a rich lawyer. All you need is to add value where you are employed. Once you start adding value, then you must have acquired something to bring to the table for  negotiation. Grow at working in a law firm to even becoming a partner where it is possible. Gather as much experience and contact as you can. Do not forget, every success story has some measure of hardship. Resist the urge to take the short cut. In this profession, there is no short cut. You can only have a short court to daily bread. You can never become a rich lawyer without making sacrifices. Ignore the nay sayers. Some of them will do it differently if they have the opportunity to start all over.

There is nobody that doesnt like to have a thriving practice but only those who have what it takes, grow thriving practice. A good foundation gives you the leverage to thrive. On the other hand, a shallow foundation brings nothing and gives nothing. I personally believe that there is no point to belabor the issue of pupilage. All you need is to check out the stories behind those established lawyers and law firms. While you are at it, consider also those who have told you how pupilage is a waste of time and talent. In all, also resist the temptation of being in the category of those who believe that everybody must not have a rich law firm because those who have rich law firms are not superhuman.

Not Setting Career Goals

Have you ever imagined why some lawyers start applying for the silk the moment they are 10 years post call? Do you even know what it takes to meet the requirement? Are you aware that there are lawyers who are 20 to 30 years post call, have won cases in all hierarchy of courts in Nigeria and have never applied for the silk? No, they do not belong to the category of the late Pa Gomez who refused to apply on principle. They never planned to apply and now find it impossible to start trying. In their closet they know they want to even attempt, but it has become too late to even start trying. These are the ones who failed to set career goals for themselves. It is not just enough to be a lawyer, setting career goal  gives you the right frame of mind to determine what to do and what not to settle for. The sad news is that majority of lawyers do not have any goal set for themselves except to graduate from law school and become lawyers.

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In the legal profession, there are different peaks. You can follow the part of academics and become a professor of law. Alternatively, you can pursue a career on the bench, thereby becoming a magistrate or a high court judge and climbing through the ladder to become a justice of the appellate courts depending on your age and success. You can as well becoming a seasoned and successful advocate and go on to be recognized for the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria. You may shun all the titles and distinguish yourself in corporate practice or even in corporate establishment as company secretary, legal adviser etc. Achieving any aspect of these peaks require conscious effort. They do not happen accidentally. Nobody wakes up from sleep to a phone call that he has been made a Professor, Senior Advocate or a Judge without working hard for it.

Learn to chart a career path, the worst case scenario would be that you almost got there but then, you would have pulled all your energy towards getting there and that would have taken you out of the threshold of poverty.

At this point, I wish to recognize especially those other lawyers who have gone to other professions. They should be commended. It simply means they realized early enough that the profession is not for them. The truth is that this profession is actually not for many people who have insisted on remaining practitioners, little wonder the mess. Realizing that you may be more productive else where is also a self awareness which comes from charting a career path. This may be the only catalyst you need to excel. Why remain a poor lawyer when you can become a world class actor, businessman, fashion designer etc.

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 Burning All the Bridges

Fight with the NBA branch, even the National,  fight with all your past principal’s before you leave them, fight colleagues in court, fight the judge. Become that counsel who will not oblige counsel on the other side your copy of court process. Become that lawyer who insist that your colleague must come to your office to serve you court processes rather than just receive it in court and acknowledge that fact.  Also join the category of those who always tell their client that the judge has taken bribe. When counsel on the other side who was not in court call you to ask for the next adjourned date, tell him that you are not the court registrar. Try hard to ensure that every lawyer you have a matter with understand that it is a battle field. Some times, do it to please your client. In the end, make sure you burn all the bridges because you are a lawyer and you know your right!

If you belong to the category of lawyers described above, it is time to take stock.  You see all those ‘gragra’ you do in court, they will not take you far. They will only set you apart for negative appraisal. I hope you know that a time will come when you would require commendation from even counsel on the other side in a matter you handled? Ah! You don’t know? I have just told you. Go and find out.  I hope you are aware that some privileges require seeking reference from judges and SANs, yes, those ones that you have spent all your years in practice fighting.

See enh, frankly speaking, you see all those stories about how your principals do not want you to succeed? Those stories about the seniors not wanting anybody to get to their level? They are nonsense stories you should never pay attention to, if you ever wish to become a rich lawyer. They are stories peddled by poor or almost poor lawyers. Do yourself a favour, whenever anybody start to tell you those stories, run a background check on them. What the heck is your business with what the senior wishes for you? It is a transaction. You are in a symbiotic relationship where you help him make money in exchange for learning the rope. If there is stipend or salary, it is an added advantage. To hell with what the Partner and Managing Partner think of your destiny. When you are well equipped, politely call off the contract. As a matter of fact, this is where you can use that cliche’; “no be you pay my law school fees”. After you have given each other benefits, not before.

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Resist every urge to prove a point that is not useful. Do away with all forms and likeness of rudeness. It pays nobody to be rude to anyone. You cannot imagine how many people are watching and keeping your records.

Appearance is Everything

Simply put; “Dress the way you would want to be addressed.” When you attend that meeting looking shabby, be sure to receive some shabby treatment. If you appear in court looking ‘dapper’, you earn your respect from everyone around. These things are not rocket science. A well dressed lawyer is hardly average. If you start from the beginning to attach serious importance to how you look, chances are, that you have left the threshold of being a poor lawyer. Why would a lawyer appear in court wearing non conforming dress? Some ladies were coloured materials that distablize them in court for no reason and make them focus more on watching their dresses rather than presenting their cases. Sometimes, I wonder! When they are unlucky to appear before a judge who is observant and they are identified, they often get into trouble and are embarrassed for no reason in the presence of their clients and even potential clients. Nobody takes a person who is not well dressed seriously. You will do yourself a great one to make budget for office space, books and suits.

In conclusion, I can only say this; as you lay your bed, so shall you lie on it. Becoming rich or poor in this profession is a an issue that is entirely in your hands.

I wish you everything you wish for yourself!


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