A young lawyer has called out a senior colleague on Facebook over his attitude towards front seat at the Federal High Court, Calabar.
The lawyer Hussaini Hussaini wrote;
“I was with all humility, so disappointed with the attitude of a presumably senior lawyer on the seniority thing yesterday in the Federal High Court, Calabar.
I usually sit at the back row in higher courts in order to maintain my lane as a humble, little, growing, counsel, and to avoid any situation of an SAN coming into the court to make me vacate my seat for them.
For yesterday, we had a case and it appeared that no SAN was in court and the counsel in our case were the most senior, and majority of the lawyers in the case had flights to catch. Another senior surrendered his seat for me and invited me to sit in the front because we’re taking our matter first.
While the court was sitting, and our case was ongoing, an elderly lawyer entered the courtroom and stood by my side. He held the side of his gown and looked round the court and then turned to me and said “young man”.
I doffed and said “good morning sir”, while busy trying to follow the submissions of my opposing counsel who was speaking to court.
The seat behind me was empty, so I thought his comment was for me to shift my chair so that he can sit or pass in since he kept gazing at me and refused to answer my good morning, so I shited my chair to the front.
No. That wasn’t what he meant, he turned to me, with all respect, pompously, and said “do you expect me to sit at the back while you sit in the front?”.
I had to take away my attention from my ongoing case and apologized to this senior thus:
“I’m sorry sir, my case is the one going on”.
He sat behind me and immediately our case was done, he tapped my shoulder, “young man, do you still have another case?”.
I left the seat for him and had to arrange my bag by the side to leave.
I was hopeful that the presiding judge was noticing the distraction he was creating because his voice wasn’t very low, and I was expecting my lord to intervene.
I was careful not to create an issue in the court around this, but I am sure young lawyers go through a lot of this kind of harassment by some handful of our senior colleagues, whom our rules expect to guide and accord equal respect to their juniors.
This is also a disadvantage of being a young lawyer – age-wise, and appearing neat with seemingly no old attire in court. I’m confident that the lawyer wouldn’t have given me such treatment if he was aware that I am a young man in age, but not a freshly, yesterday, called “young man” at the bar to deserve any such treatment.
Indeed, no lawyer deserve such harassment. The learned elderly lawyer’s action was not only a disrespect to his younger colleague, but to the court itself which was already in session.
God bless Awa Kanu, SAN. The last time I met him in court he invited younger colleagues to sit with him at the inner bar. There are lot of SANs whom I worked with or saw inviting people to sit with them at the inner bar when the court cannot accommodate all lawyers. These are people who earned the exclusive privilege to the inner bar, but are willing to share with others out of their respect for their professional colleagues.
I totally believe in the African culture of respect for elders, care for the needy, and I had at several occasions respectfully forgo my rights to the elderly and those in need, but I really think that a conversation should be led in our various NBA meetings to soften the noose of seniority so that elderly lawyers will be accorded earned respect.
I recently handled a transaction with an elderly lawyer – age-wise, who is actually my call-mate, but had been holding himself out as my senior, while addressing me in a very harsh manner. I pretended ignorance and allowed him to go with his ego while I worked to perfect my moves. I hope he will soon understand that in our profession, smartness comes before ego and the seniority itself.
This is another reason to keep praying for God’s help to soon stop wearing this shoulder pocket bearing gown.