Ask your principal

Before another court in a different matter, the court in a bid to adjourn the case in a manner that would cover the number of days a plaintiff has to file his final address and the defendant to file their reply address, asked a young wig the required number of days he would need to file his final written address as the plaintiff, and he hurriedly said twenty one {21} days instead of fourteen {14} days i.e Kaduna Jurisdiction and the Honourable Judge said ‘ask your principal.’
On need for counsel to always learn by asking senior colleagues what to do in a particular situation, it was held in NJABA L.G.C v CHIGOZIE {2010} 16 N.W.L.R {part 1218} per OGUNWUMIJU at page 193, paras B-C: “… it is unfortunate that Mrs. Aguta Ag. director of legal drafting did not think it wise and expedient to ask senior colleagues what to do in this situation. A lawyer is always learning, that is why we are called learned…”
 “God forbid that a lawyer should know all the law” said Lord Denning but then, the beauty of practise is the experience on the job. The knowledge and expertise of a young lawyer with two {2} – five {5} years post call cannot be compared to that of a senior lawyer with fifteen {15} – twenty {20} years post call, that does not mean that the senior lawyer is always right. In this profession no one is perfect, hence we learn by the day.
Young wigs in active practise that go to court frequently would realise that certain peculiar situations arise in the course of judicial proceedings that takes only the experience of the senior lawyer to save the day, and if a young lawyer were to be in the same similar situation he would find it very difficult to find a way out.
The legal profession is all about independence of knowledge, how much a young lawyer learns depends on how many mistakes he has made on the job, where such young lawyer makes a mistake while dealing with the office case, ‘NO BE SMALL WAHALA BE THAT FOR HIM HEAD’. How then are young wigs supposed to develop their legal skills when the working environment is not encouraging? Bear in mind that an average salary for young lawyers in any jurisdiction is far below their living standard.
It is due to the gloomy working environment in some law firms, that most young lawyers find it difficult to approach Principal Partners on matters they handle because of fear of reproach.  The kind of principal a young lawyer begins his sojourn with plays a large role in determining how he approaches the legal profession.
This writer knows of a young lawyer in Plateau jurisdiction whose principal not only pays low, but also collects the appearance fees of his young lawyers when they come back from court, and yet they close late. The young lawyer {a gentleman in skirt} out of frustration left the law firm and joined a family company as a Company Secretary that pays above a hundred thousand naira every month with less stress and this job offer was available before joining the law firm.
A young lawyer cannot make any reasonable head way in the profession without proper guidance from his principal, as not everything is learnt from the book. In certain law firms there exists friction between the principal and the young lawyers hindering a free flow of knowledge from one to the other. This is not encouraging.
While it is paramount for young wigs to ask their principals certain issues of law they find hard to understand or comprehend, a principal who serves as a guide to the young lawyer should be approachable to encourage inter personal relationship in the workplace.
The legal profession is supposed to be fun but most young lawyers sing a different tune.


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