The term “Lawyer” is synonymous with names such as “The Law”, “Learned one”, “All wise”, “Professional Colleague/ Friend” and for the young ones in the profession: “Baby Lawyer”. The young lawyer within the early years of his call has to sacrifice to succeed eventually in the nearest future.
A senior lawyer shared his experience with me on how he had rejected a lot of fat briefs in exchange for his integrity. He further exposed how frustrating the demands of responsibility could be to push one into committing fraudulent acts when the will power and motivation is missing.
Everyone is tempted,all professions and trade alike with their little foxes. The young lawyer is not left out of the chase as he faces challenges that are hard knocks big enough to drown him in the web of life. One out of the numerous challenges a young lawyer faces is the right step to take in acquiring the required practical experience needed in the field. He may change firms, follow lead mentors in the field, be a regular attendee of the Bar Meetings, seminars and conferences or even an ardent reader of the Newsletters and Magazines in the profession all geared towards gaining meaningful experience in the profession.
The young lawyers are often times discouraged by the unduly high standards placed and eager to live the dream of the profession miss out some key traits. To aid one achieve success in the legal profession, here are some keys steps necessary for the young lawyer to observe.
- Be Studious
Knowledge is key in all phases of life, it exposes our eyes and mind to much more than is available. It is a commitment to read for the rest of one’s life.
Undoubtedly, the books are always voluminous and constantly updated in the market or library. To be relevant in this field, one should be always learn at least something new each day. Joseph Story (1779 – 1845) mentioned this while writing on the Value and Importance of Legal Studies:
“The law is a jealous mistress, and requires a long and constant courtship. It is not to be won by trifling favours, but by lavish homage.”
- Don’t be scared or ashamed of failing
Oliver Wendell Holmes said “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”
Mistakes are constantly made in the course of becoming better. What is paramount is learning from every task assigned, Client interaction, meetings, Court appearances, books and being proactive.
The Mission Statement of Association of Trial Lawyers of America states as follows:
“Seek justice for all . . . Champion the cause of those who deserve redress for injury to personal property . . . Promote the public good through concerted efforts to secure safe products, a safe work place, a clean environment, and quality healthcare . . . Further the rule of law in a civil justice system, and protect the rights of the accused . . . Advance the common law and the finest traditions of jurisprudence . . . and uphold the honour and dignity of the legal profession and the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity”.
The provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct (R.P.C.) in Nigeria particularly Rule 24 states that:
“Lawyers are duty bound to uphold the law; and no service or advice ought to be rendered or given by them to clients, corporate or individual, of any description or to any cause whatsoever involving disloyalty to the law or bringing disrespect upon the holder of any judicial office or involving corruption of holders of any public office. Improper service or advice in such circumstances as aforesaid is unethical and merits strong condemnation as unprofessional conduct. On the other hand, service or advice rendered or given that not only accords with the letter of the law but also embraces moral principle cannot be too highly commended. He must also observe and advise his client to observe the statute law, save that until a statute has been construed and interpreted by competent adjudication, he is free and is entitled to advise as to its validity and as to what he conscientiously believes to be its just meaning and extent. Above all, a lawyer finds his highest honour in a deserved reputation for fidelity to private trust and to public duty, as an honest man and as a patriotic and loyal citizen”
- Have a vision
The young mind should constantly seek ways of improving the profession. One should be able to engage Interactions with technology, knowledge and skills towards improving the profession. As Victor Hugo said, “The future has several names. For the weak, it is impossible. For the fainthearted, it is unknown. For the thoughtful and valiant, it is ideal.” This should be a watchword.
- Know your case as well as the Judge
“A good Lawyer knows the law, a great Lawyer knows the judge” Author Anonymous.
The above statement is very true. To succeed in practice, be observant to read the demeanor of the judge, ask questions from other colleagues, and registrar’s, note hints from the bench, observe style of proceedings and be smart.
Sometimes one may not need to do so much to set a mark as the court is very observant to distinguish the good lawyers from the bad ones.
- You are an ambassador
A Lawyer functions alongside the bench and other members of the Judiciary. Be sure to set the right example. Charles Dickens said, “if there were no bad people, then there won’t be great Lawyers”
- Protect your Integrity
Integrity is one of the most priceless virtues, opportunities will always come to test your Integrity by cutting corners and engaging in sharp practices for temporal gains. It’s always your call, not your employer’s or your client’s call. Protect your name at all cost.
- Be Resilient
The legal profession can be tough for the young ones, it’s appears like a mirage of our dreams. Only the tough survive the early stages in the career. It is a profession for the brave as one of my colleagues would say “you carry people’s burden on your head when you have yours unsolved”.
Your determination to succeed should keep you going.
- Keep proper records
Many times we are accustomed to the regular use of precedents, starting from the statues, case laws, practice traditions, office practice and the likes. Be sure to have a good record. Apply technology to your practice, use the cloud storage methods to protect your files from virus infections or unforeseen circumstances, employ automation to your office work and take advantage of new applications.
- Be disciplined
Discipline is key. It begins from the humility before senior and junior colleagues, arriving to Court on time, filing tasks on time, following up on clients and tasks assigned, making studious research on tasks assigned, learning and adopting a style of writing other than yours, carrying weighty files etc. A disciplined lawyer has the sky waiting for him to fly in.
So here’s a shout out to the young lawyers who will greatly influence the legal profession. Aim high so that if you fall, you will touch the sky.
Chidinma Okonkwo, firstname.lastname@example.org
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A Report Of The Judgement Of The 16 Divisions Of The Court Of Appeal In Nigeria