Sketch: Virgin Wigs

Screen_20120710_090520 - Copy

 

“Counsel, how old are you at the Bar?”

That question pretty much sums up what has been a long day at the temple of justice. Yes, it’s you, a fresh wig, a green horn, a courtroom virgin (never mind those few appearances you have racked up), standing before a judge whom it seems to you woke up on the left side of the sheets, subjecting you to those words that do not exactly show kindness to your dignity and ego as a young legal practitioner.

True to those feelings you had been nurturing from sunrise, that day had pretty much assumed the shape of what was going to be a really long one. You had woken up with heavy eyes, much against your will, with that not-so-polite 6.25am “show up at the office” phone call from your boss. (Everyone you know who shares the same call-to-Bar date with you has a boss; starting up a law firm less than a year after earning licence to practice would be seen as a combination of bravery and stupidity.) Of course he knew you couldn’t have possibly had much of a night: there had been those seven hours spent at the state police headquarters trying (unsuccessfully) to negotiate bail for a land speculator the day before, and there were those three written addresses which he had instructed you to work on. Well he couldn’t have been bothered. Your eyes were the brightest in the firm and still (relatively) white, so he could summon you at will. He had revealed his reason for the call as soon as you arrived. There had been a mix-up in the diary, and a case which he didn’t know had been slated for that day was coming up in another local government area ninety minutes away; he had only found out via a 5.00am text message from the client. From the tone of his voice, you had already known what that meant.

20140221_095547

 

There had obviously been no preparation on your part, but you knew what to do: go there, take notes and ask the court for a short adjournment. That was pretty much what you were good for anyways at this stage, besides motions and drafts (you had not earned enough trust to conduct a full trial). You had picked up that gown which always gave you away as a baby wig, grabbed the case file and relevant authorities, and set out to the day’s ordeal, but not before taking that selfie in front of the office, for the love of Instagram. Lawyers and intense heat are best of friends no thanks to the attire, public transport doesn’t make it any easier, and the only respite you had gained was three-quarters into the trip when you got a lift in the opposing counsel’s car, praying that your client wouldn’t see you when it was time to alight from that Bugatti.

Being a junior wig meant that you had to wait a little longer before your case would get mentioned, and your body had succumbed to the effects of a long previous day and short night, only stopping short of snoring. Your slumber had been judicially noticed, and when it was finally time to call your case, your response to the judge’s inquiry as to why you made a bed out of the Bar had been “we can’t cheat nature, mi Lord”. There is no way to tell man’s thoughts from merely staring at the face, but what followed had made you realize that your response had been without regard to his mood, and after a torrent of abuses, came the unflattering question you were presently faced with.

IMG_20140207_031215

 

This is by no means the first time you had been subjected to the “how old are you at the Bar” question. There had been that kidnap case months earlier, where your boss had been away and you had been berated by the judge at your city of practice for appearing alone in such a sensitive case, particularly given your inexperience, and the accused whom you represented had requested to do the cross-examination herself. There was also that day at a lower court where you had been without your diary, and taking an adjournment had come with a reprimand. On both occasions you had responded meekly – less than a year at the Bar – to much sneering from the gallery, but this time you react differently.

“I don’t know how that question relates to the facts of the case. My Lord”, you reply.

The question is repeated, and your answer is pretty much the same. You eventually respond appropriately after some coaxing whispers from your senior colleagues, but the judge is already incensed, and he is having none of your apologies. An appeal from the older wigs saves you from being committed for contempt, but you are made to stand outside the courtroom for nearly fifty minutes. The judge’s disciplinary measure does a lot to your confidence on the day, and by the time you get back in, nervousness has become a friend of yours. The request for an adjournment is granted, and the client reluctantly pays the much-anticipated appearance fee after feeding you with sob stories of bereavement and business shortcomings. “At least this one paid”, you tell yourself. You remember the client from three weeks earlier, who bolted to the door as soon as he heard “case adjourned” and zoomed off in a motorcycle. It’s a long ride back home for you, as the events of the day get you thinking and pondering whether you are actually cut out for legal practice. Yea, your ego has been battered that much.

You return to the office pretty exhausted, and your boss splits the day’s appearance fee into two unequal parts, taking the larger share. He then chides you of not properly arranging some files in the office, and your mind drifts to the office secretary, who earns twice as much as you do for doing next to nothing. No, you don’t want to think about your salary; that brings tears to your eyes, especially when you consider that the meagre sum doesn’t even flow in regularly. Your attempt at taking a short nap is interrupted by two clients; one who, ignorant of the concept of front-loading, complains about you to your boss for not being vocal enough on the last adjourned date, and another who gets you to draft a Power of Attorney for which you will be getting nothing from either him or your boss (who has since put the cheque in his pocket).

IMG_20140322_233020

 

You finally get to leave the office by 5.45pm and on your way home, your phone beeps. It’s Ene, a lady who constantly turned you down during your university days, but now uses your photo as her Display Picture on a regular basis ever since you got called to the Bar. She is “just checking on you and hoping your day was smooth”, though you know it’s because she wants you to assume responsibility for the next couple of Blackberry Internet Subscriptions. You also get that text from Charlie, reminding you of the six thousand naira he begged you for two weeks earlier. You laugh inwardly and shake your head, blaming your formal outfits for all the false impressions. If only they knew how things really were. The first thing you do upon getting home is to do justice to the pile of dirty laundry in your wardrobe. You know better than to save that for Saturday, knowing how unpredictable your weekends could be. Yea, that Sunday afternoon where you had to get to the police station barely twenty minutes after returning from church and negotiate bail for a teenager held for alleged rape is still fresh in your memory. You sink into bed after a bath which you almost skipped out of fatigue, but sleep only comes after a brief reflection on the day, during which you sigh deeply in the realization that you’re up for a long ride through this career path.

Advertisements

37 responses to “Sketch: Virgin Wigs

  1. Much about captures the travails of a new/virgin wig. Cheap labour we have been made to become and our bosses often wonder why we seem to lack some measure of commitment and often look distracted? The joys of the noble profession is limited to the fancied attire but no further as the wallets gets leaner per second. Nicely done Jerry.

  2. Like d story….. Climbing the ladder to get a good footing. Hoping to get to d top without our youthful zeal n energy all snatch away by d everyday struggle. Nice one Jerry!

      • Nice piece! Well written!
        I still wonder why young lawyers have to endure the modern day slavery though. Well, like they say, it’s a profession for the elite, not people seeking to make a living from it.
        Nevertheless, it will be worth it at the end of the day. #KeepFaith

  3. Jerry Chi once again crafts a gripping tale of the live of a ‘virgin wig’ and the legal profession and its a joy to read. He also takes us with him on a thought-provoking exploration of the difficult balance between law in ‘school’ practice and law in real practice. Kudos bro….

  4. I really feel for the young lawyer…it’s not easy at all! With time things will change. Great write up, i was able to relate very well with the situation even tho i no nothing about law. Was afraid for him when he responded to the judge oh…such balls! Lol. I enjoyed this!

  5. Sums up what my judge told us during externship. She said ” young lawyers should see themselves as apprentice mechanics n deserving more 15k or 20k a month”. We disagreed with her. wonderful write up

  6. Painful that I have missed ur articles so much. Thank God I am back and I hope to cover up. This is lovely and a true reflection of the travails of a new wig.

  7. Luvly piece yet again… though all the “SUITS” and “BOSTON LEGALS” of this world are’nt helping, this piece jolts me back to the harsh reality of what truly awaits a new wig out there. The sooner i prepared my mind, the better…thanks for the heads up.

  8. Nice piece,Jerry. Stories like this make us,undergraduate law students,imagine the grim realities that await us upon our call the bar. *sigh* well,we can only hope for the better. We’ve begun the race already; we’ve crossed the Rubicon, and there’s no going back now. All I can say is that most good things do not start easy. The OCJ Okochas, the Williams,etc of this world reputed as the most successful lawyers in the country, have similar or even much worse stories to tell. In fact I remember having read a paper delivered by Chief Akinjide before an audience of ‘virgin wigs’- to borrow Jerry’s words- where he said something like ‘the LLB and BL certificates aren’t a meal tickets; they’re mere licences to practice law’. I couldn’t agree more with the learned silk. Thanks,Jerry, for re-echoeing, with a story, the words of Chief Akinjide. Merci beaucoup 🙂

  9. This is the practical story that characterizes the day to day experience of “virgin wigs” in Nigeria.
    It’s such a wonderful piece authored by a wonderful friend.

  10. You nailed it! Come November, I will be called to the Bar and here, you succeeded in making me see the toils and tears at the Bar. Well, never say never! nice writeup!

  11. Ok, so I’m a first time reader and can’t help but comment. Just Saw dis piece on http://www.legalwatchmen.blogspot.com and I must confess that I can totally relate.
    I’d be 2 years @ d bar next month and I still pray to God not to be humiliated whenever I step into the court room.
    The profession has its ups and downs, but for a new wig the “ups” come a lot less often than the “downs”.
    Sometimes, I meet nice judges who would take time to school me and explain properly, and sometimes I meet the not so nice ones who woke up on the wrong side of their beds. And sometimes, I meet some who just don’t like my face. Phew.
    At least, u still get an unequal portion of your appearance fees, as nice and friendly as my boss is, all he says is
    Him: “did you collect my appearance fees”
    Me: “yes sir”
    Him: (pockets it),” thank you. Did d client give you anything?”
    Me: “No sir”
    Him: “clients sef! Very stingy set of people.Next time, ask him/her for your transport fare.
    And that, my brother, is d end of d conversation. ( Dat tin dey always vex me die)
    Let me not get started and those who all dey know how to say is “D LAW!” Expecting you to drop something for them, sending account nos @ will and calling u stingy wen u don’t send anything or u beg dem to bear with you.
    The national anthem of such people has dese lyrics “But nawa o! Shebi u are a lawyer? Lawyers av money na. Remember us in ur paradise o”
    If you by chance tell them you earn peanuts, dey scoff and say you are lying,just because one wears a voluminous gown (which by the way makes heat ur close pal) and a wig dat doesn’t do justice to ur weaves.
    What about the court baillifs and registrars who won’t deem it fit to do deir jobs properly until you “drop something”, despite the fact that they earn waaaaay more than you, since dey are govt workers; or even the police prosecutors and some bailiffs and registrars too, who think dere’s nothing wrong in “toasting” a female lawyer, just because she bears the title “miss”. Smh
    Let me end my epistle here, Only God in Heaven can console a new wig.Sometimes, I look at myself and say “it would surely get better” and I know it will.
    Thumbs up Jerry, beautiful write up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s