August 9, 2022
Call to Bar Ceremony in Nigeria

When we start off after being given proper license to wear our wigs and gowns without fear or favour, we know we still have a number of things to learn. A lot has been passed down our throats theoretically and even with these a lot more are not taught in the conventional law class. I will give a few examples. I am yet to attain a law class on how to relate with a critical or difficult judge. What about how to deal with the office politics in the law office you currently work in…any law professor taught you that? None taught me.

A number of these things are practically learned while in the bustle of legal practice. Besides navigating some of these issues most times may require knowledge/wisdom that is found outside the pages of any law textbook in existence. So, in my respectful opinion, an old wig has its worth.

Thankfully too a number of seniors have taken the labor to put down in books some practical guides to help out in the course of our practice as young lawyers.

These Books are not about the law strictly but about the practice life and experience of lawyers.

Reminiscences at the bar was a title I found I my university library. Then there is Oputa’s book – another title I found before My call. However 4 books came into my personal collection after call and I have found them to be immensely helpful. And like I mentioned earlier, I do not hesitate to recommend these books to any and every practitioner (whose core of practice is dispute resolution).

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They are;

  1. Hints on Legal Practice by Anthony Ekundayo
  2. The Devil’s advocate by Iian Morley
  3. Cross Examination; the trial Lawyer’s most potent weapon by Yemi Osinbajo and Fola Worrey
  4. Advocacy Tactics and Antics by T. Oscar Aorabee  

Furthermore, the point to me remains that when we have been called to the bar and are still regarded as ‘new wigs, just called yesterday’; but being a young wig does not mean being grossly incompetent. It does not have to be; especially if you do not let it.

In fact in my opinion being young at the bar could be an advantage; the advantage of youth, strength and passion. In effect; being young could really mean; grossly underrated but serially powerful (if the needed work is put in that is). Why do I say so?

The senior lawyer (if he is for the adverse party) might clearly underestimate your abilities; I mean he has seen none of your abilities on display to even rate in the first instance. And therefore learned senior counsel may comfortably risk leaving a number of loose ends to chance with the comforting thought of – “after all counsel on the other side is a young lawyer”.

This reminds me of Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath and a pending matter I was involved in a while ago. The lawyer for the adverse party clearly assumed that the young lawyers ‘on the other side’ could do no harm to his case. The confidence was palpable. But I had read in Malcom Gladwell’s book that Goliath’s huge stature was a disadvantage. I somehow took this to heart and the rest they say is history. We obtained victory for our client.

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The point as already made is; your being young at the bar and thus being underestimated would likely make the confident side unwittingly give you a lot of loose ends to work with; use them appropriately. After all, who closes his parlour door when it is rumoured that one soldier ant is visiting at night. That’s just an analogy. But hope the point is made.

Please note that the above is not always the case. But when you have the penchant of always giving in your best, it really should not matter. In addition, to borrow the admonition of a senior colleague that I respect immensely; the goal is to be an experienced lawyer and not necessarily an old lawyer.

As an added suggestion: Hints of Legal Practice by Anthony Ekundayo is a worthy read.

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