Photo credits

         Photo credits


Now you are a lawyer and not a student of law. The earlier you make that distinction the easier the travels through the rough road of early post call practice becomes.

You just found out that legal practice isn’t a ball or the Eldorado you read in John Grisham’s novel? Welcome to the world! Nothing is always as it seems or was painted. The practice of law is a totally different picture from what was painted in law classes.

You read, cram, pass exams and make a good grade; the rest is Eldorado? Not so fast brother (and sister, sorry I forgot to add that for the gender sensitive folks). You were only taught and probably examined on the standards and rules of your lecturers but the world sets its own standards and must be played by its own rules.

You must play by the rules of the world to succeed. There lies the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t. Forget your grades! Many first class students become average lawyers and many who were in the bottom of the class lead their mates!

Those who graduate at the bottom of the class come to lead those who graduated top of the class most times in the practice of law. That is the sad reality of legal practice. The reason is that legal practice is a leveller. It’s like an open trip to get to the top of a mountain and your ability to get there depends solely on your determination, patience, innovation, creativity and adaptability.

Your grade might give you an early lead in the journey to the top of that mountain but then the farthest you could go is dependent on your own abilities. Yea! I ain’t mincing words, grades are overrated and do not determine how successful you can be. They are at best your lecturers’ opinion or definition of success. Like I said, the world has its own standards and rules.

Your early post call years is the period of realising that the game has changed and you are playing in a different turf. Many don’t continue in practice and go into other ventures. A lot trudge on but very few get to the top. Others do not go farther from the spot they started. Others hit intermediate destinations.

How do you adapt to and fit into the legal profession despite the challenges which your educational training never prepared you for? The quiet Caterpillar changes to the colourful butterfly; that’s metamorphosis! You too can undergo that transformation so don’t get it twisted or better still don’t quit yet.

You gotta understand the terrain has changed from what you expected or were told to expect. So adapt to fit your new terrain. Against all odds, you can fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee! That’s the way to go buddy! Here are the tips to adapt, transform and survive!

Learn More and Always be Ready to Learn
Your university and law school curriculum contain less than 10% of what you need to know as a lawyer. So trash your grade, read more and learn more like you know nothing. You can only go as far as you can learn and what you have learnt is like the fuel that can propel you to the top.

Become a Lawyer
Transmute from a law student to a lawyer. That’s the metamorphosis we are talking about. Law students are groomed to solve hypothetical problems in exam questions, lawyers solve real life problems. The problem most lawyers have is that they remain very academic years after leaving school. They often live in denial of the reality which is that law as taught in school is different from law as practiced in real life.

A good example; bail is free, so we were told in school, but then what happens in real life? People want you to solve their problems not compound them. Knowing all the constitutional provisions on bail is useless to your client if your knowledge cannot secure his liberty when he runs foul of the law. A client will prefer a dunce who solves his problems timeously to a law professor who can’t.

Even in court, it’s often said that the court does not entertain academic issues. Legal practice is not an academic affair, it’s a purely realistic problem solving profession.

Don’t be an Island
I recall the earliest orientation we had as law students is that we were different from other students. In fact the declining standard in legal practice was blamed on the fact that “Lawyers and carpenters were being trained together”.

Well, that fun and hype ends in school. You are a lawyer and just like other professionals serve the society and have no reason to look down on other members of the society who are non-lawyers. Na hunger go kill you because you will brief yourself and pay yourself. Nobody will come near a haughty and proud person for anything. So don’t demean yourself but don’t look down on other professions. The engineering students we referred to as carpenters dominate the largest sectors of the economy. You need not be told how much those sectors pour into the purses of lawyers.

So folks I gotta run at this point. Got some files to work on. The Legal Metamorphosis Part 2 will soon hit you like a storm. You ain’t gonna wait for too long!

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Maduka Onwukeme is an Attorney, Creative Writer and Business Consultant. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook or on Linkedin