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Teach me how to fish

“Sir, I expect that you don’t just be a principal to me, but also a mentor, interestingly, I believe that’s what the profession also expects…

“Sir, I expect that you don’t just be a principal to me, but also a mentor, interestingly, I believe that’s what the profession also expects from you. The kind of lawyer I would turn out to be in years to come, to a large extent is dependent on how you go about carrying this assignment. I would be learning a great deal from you even without you knowing it…” Letter to my principal (www.threelegals.com)

Taking a cue from a counsel in chamber’s letter to his principal, it is evident that juniors in the legal profession expect seniors to serve as mentors, not just employers of labour and help contribute in the molding and shaping of their practice as they climb the ladder. Experience cannot be traded in the market. Our learned seniors are vastly experienced in handling legal matters. They know how best to manage a client relationship, how to charge for and offer legal services, how to package a product and more. All a counsel in chamber asks is that he should be given the coaching and opportunity to explore his potential as a legal professional.

This writer was nearly moved to tears when the mother of a young lawyer was complaining bitterly how it took so long to train her son to become a legal practitioner, and now he is five years at the Bar and yet, she contributes to his upkeep and accommodation. I thought of consoling words to say to her like “Mummy don’t worry, it would soon be over”, or “Mummy, it takes patience and hard work for one to reap the benefits of the legal profession”.   But those words could not come out of my mouth, why? Because even my parents are making the same complaints and words alone cannot salvage the situation.

The irony to this however is that every lawyer is a potential millionaire, in shorter than fifteen (15) minutes a lawyer’s bank account digit can change dramatically (and I mean jaw-dropping difference) in handling one legal deal, so where lies the fault? Why are lawyers despite the hard work, determination, patience, commitment et al not at that level yet? Why is it difficult for a legal professional practicing in Nigeria with four- or five-years post call experience to have a savings account worth one hundred thousand naira (N100,000)? Is it the spending habit or lifestyle of a lawyer that is responsible for what makes him closer to pennilessness than affluence? Who is in a better position to show legal professionals under the employ of a law firm across the country how to fish?

“Teach me, not just how to collect appearance fee, but also teach me the techniques you use in billing clients. I expect that you teach me not just the practice of law, but also the business of law. I expect that you consciously teach me all that you know I need to know to become the best I can be as a lawyer.”

This cry is genuine and innocent. We are most times accused of not having the patience to learn the job, that all we go after is money, but this goes beyond finance. A young lawyer is like a cub in the jungle, he can only learn the nitty gritty of the profession through the eyes of his principal. If a lawyer comes to office looking shabby and unkempt, the principal as a father/mother in the profession ought to inquire why his/her employee is not immaculately dressed. Principals should have the ability to influence the character and attitude of lawyers under their employ. Law employees need a mentor figure in the person of a principal to show them how best to manage life and its expectations, the legal profession and its divergent difficulties. Lawyers are supposed to be a source of pride in the society, sadly, majority of lawyers have become an example of impoverished and broke citizens.

As a senior legal professional, mentoring a junior is not restricted to lawyers in their chambers alone. Every junior colleague that comes across you requires your guidance, wisdom or experience on how to become a better gentleman. We want to learn but not knowledge restricted to litigation; we want all-encompassing knowledge that would make others see your contributions in us. It is a thing of joy for both the mentor and the protégé when we become successful in the society.

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