As a child, I always wanted to be a lawyer. I can’t recall exactly what got me attracted to the profession, but I remember I always admired their gait, neat and descent sense of dressing and plenty big grammar. They always seemed different from every other person to me back then. I remember rewinding several times, a part in a movie where a lawyer was defending a lady in a law court. I was exactly awed by the intelligence and eloquence of the lawyer in that movie. I wanted to hear him quote the law over and over again, it tickled my fancy a whole lot.
The way he quoted the constitution by heart like a pastor quotes the bible made me conclude that lawyers are the most intelligent people alive. I strongly believed that lawyers could never be intimidated or arrested; lawyers were above the law. So, I made up my mind that I’d be a lawyer.
As a ‘Jambito’ I lost every urge to study law; aside the high score one needed to attain in the entrance examinations to study law, I was also misled by “Nigerians’ myth” about lawyers. Many people had (and still have) many negative things to say about lawyers. While some people think that lawyers are time wasters who are only interested in filling up their pockets, others are of the opinion that they are only good at speaking big vocabularies to confuse their clients and other laymen.
Some people are also of the opinion that lawyers are a bunch of liars who twist the contents of the law to satisfy their greed. I remember discussing with a friend about a topic that has to do with a land dispute. After listening to the whole story, I simply asked an innocent question, “but why dem no come go court naa?”. My friend laughed at me like I was a toddler learning how to call ‘daddy’. “Court? Which court?” He asked, looking at me with tears in his eyes from his hysteric laughter. “Court wey be say their own case no dey ever end, and na person wey get money dey always win court case”, he said, shaking his head.
“if you call lawyer to defend you for court, the only thing wey him go dey do na to dey give you hope of winning the case, he will only end up making sure you always fill his car tank with fuel and also give him his pocket money, at the end of the day when you lose the case after spending through your nose, he will tell you that your case lacked enough evidence” he concluded.
These words of his made me have a different view of lawyers. I started seeing all lawyers as people who suffer from Impulse Control Disorder – they lack the ability to control the urge to cheat and extort money from their clients.
Someone once told me that there is no mufti for a lawyer. Whatever a lawyer wears, you’d always know he/she is a lawyer. He said lawyers do not need to be in their official outfit for one to know they are lawyers. Their ‘big grammar’, outspokenness, eloquence and law quotations (even where and when not required) will always sell them out. With this, Psychologists will say that lawyers show symptoms of Histrionic Personality Disorder – They always feel the need to be noticed and become the center of attention wherever they find themselves.
If I didn’t agree to the other myths about lawyers, I definitely gave a nod to this one: many people think that Nigerian lawyers suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder–They sometimes get confused with their real personalities. They tend to mix up different personalities: they are one person in court, another person at home, someone else in religious places like mosques or churches.
There were so many things I was told about lawyers in Nigeria. I was told that lawyers are compelled to do certain things in certain ways (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I was told that lawyers don’t easily trust people (Paranoid Personality Disorder). So, I suddenly became scared of being a lawyer, I opted for psychology instead. Well, that was because I thought psychologists could read people’s minds by mere looking at them.
Looking back now, I laugh at my naivety. I realize now that being a lawyer entails a lot more than just speaking jaw breaking vocabularies and quoting laws unnecessarily. Being a lawyer entails knowing everything there is to know about the fundamental human right and fighting for the rights for every man or woman in the country. It involves winning cases with enough facts and backing of the Nigerian constitution. Law is a profession that makes a person more disciplined and self willed. It is a profession of integrity and right standing with God and man. Most people who say negative things about lawyers only base their arguments on hearsay, you’d hardly find anyone among them who has got a firsthand experience with law cases and lawyers.
Andrew Osigwe is a Lagos based Psychologists and could be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org