Dearest Young Lawyer,
The world out there is tough, the road is rough. I’m not trying to scare you but believe me, the smiles and backslappings end at your call to bar ceremony. Not everybody who celebrates with you at your call ceremony celebrates for you. Many celebrate their own gain in your success. You must have heard everyone who congratulates you say “now I have a lawyer I can call on so I will be looking for trouble” that it has become a cliché you are used to and an innocent joke that makes you feel you have arrived.
Poor soul! Yea that’s what I’m gonna call you if you believe they are joking! Many are not joking. They mean you will give them free legal services. Like you will practice law FOC (free of charge). The first deficiency you will realise from your legal training is that it does not prepare you to deal with the Shylocks and sharks at every corner.
From the osho free clients, to the police (hmmm! That’s a new wigs worst nightmare), scammers, free advice receivers and the haters. I have prepared what I call the New Wig’s 10 Commandments which from experience are the rules of engagements for every new wig who desires not to fall mugu or be dealt with must follow. So like it was given to Moses on the mountain, I give you the New Wigs 10 Commandments on my blog.
1. Collect your Fees
Majority of Nigerians do not believe legal services should be paid for. Don’t blame them. Anything requiring the services of a lawyer is a “problem” many people do not wish for and pray against. Lawyers surprisingly are expected to take “thank you” and “God bless you” as payments but not doctors, engineers or other professionals.
I mean who went to university or law school for free? So why would even family members and friends want free services which most new wigs would oblige due to their eagerness to practice as a lawyer?
Do not write any letter for free or go to the police station to bail a suspect for free, even your relatives. Is that too harsh? Well I would ask you a question; “If you had a shop, can you run it successfully if any of your friends and relatives can come around and pick whatever they like without paying?”
Hmmm! Your guess is as good as mine. Businesses would only prosper when friends and relatives pay for goods and services. Your practice is no different from a shop or supermarket stocked with goods. In this case you are selling legal services not goods stocked on the shelf.
So from now on, it should be “money for hand, back for ground” things. However there are exceptions to this rule. You can give very good discounts or free services to folks who reciprocate by bringing you clients or render pro bono services to truly indigent folks but ensure the rest pay.
2. People Hate Lawyers
Bear that in mind. Very few people have any genuine love for members of the bar and many a time it’s a love-hate feeling. Others hate you and they are looking for every opportunity to show you their inferiority complex masked as hatred for lawyers. You know them by their acts. They always want to prove to you that they know better than you. Any fault they find in your appearance, behaviour or speech they won’t fail to give themselves garlands for discovering such faults.
Just avoid haters because “you shouldn’t fight ugly people, they have nothing to lose”.
3. Most People Want to Scam Lawyers
Many clients scam lawyers. They never pay their fees complete. So how do you deal with such clients? Reject their briefs? Are you kidding me! Do not ask him to complete payment for the old briefs you did for him, before accepting another brief. He would go to another lawyer and of course cheat him. You gotta play a sucker to catch a sucker.
Just charge him a bit higher than he should pay for the particular service. Of course the sucker would pay the first installment which would be 80% of the total fees while hoping to scam you of the remaining 20%. Now you are thinking what I’m thinking. The 80% he pays should cover for your full fees, he could keep or scam you of the remaining 20%. “Cunning man die, cunning man bury am.” chikena!
4. The Police is not Your Friend
“A sheep that makes friends with the Leopard will produce a waste product” – African Proverb
You don’t need to be told that no friendship can exist between a lawyer and a Nigerian Police Officer, you ought to know that already. Below are links to the posts containing my experiences with the police.
Warning to Rookies; Naija Police Bail is not Free Part 1
In the post “Naija Police; A Lawyers’ Friend or Fiend”, I stated a quick guide on how to deal with the Police. You really gotta read that. I need not say more on this point.
5. Many People Want to “deal with” Lawyers
Yea! For some folks, it’s a life ambition to deal with one lawyer so they can spend the rest of the lives relishing and reliving the experience. So be careful. Know when and where to push for your rights. The older wigs will tell you that to be happy as a lawyer, you must ignore many things. Avoid confrontations with some kaina people especially those who have nothing to lose even when you are within your right.