I remember back then, I was having a conversation with my primary school contemporaries as to what we all would want to be in the future. . . “a journalist”, “a doctor”, “a teacher”, “a banker” were among the exciting choices proclaimed with boyish enthusiasms. When my turn came, I calmly told them I would want to become a lawyer and stand for justice! They all taunted me about my penchant for arguments and what they called “skill at lying” and jokingly concluded what a superb lawyer I would become. But those were at the time the idiomatic “Building castles in the air”
From a very humble background, in penury and difficult circumstances, I gradually but steadfastly worked towards my dream – I came first throughout primary and secondary school, proceeded to university on scholarship (I wouldn’t have afforded it), went to Law School on Scholarship, and graduated top of my Class (Star Pupil) in November of 2007. Finally, what was merely a dream to be realized one fine day became a reality. Little did I know that I just walked my way and found myself in an amazingly no man’s land and I had just reached, but not yet arrived!
The first very important decision and challenge that the young lawyer encounters is where to start – pupillage. Many believe that where and with whom you do your pupillage goes a long way in shaping your destiny at the Bar. The choices range from the well-established commercial Law firms like Wright and Co., Renner Thomas and Co, Basma and Macauley, and recently, Yada Williams and Associates who have captured the bulk of the Well-paying Clients and institutions; to outstanding individual lawyers; and unfortunately the figurative “ambulance chasers”(if you know what I mean). But as a keen observer, I have come to realize that the prophetic Biblical pronouncement is truer for the young lawyer than any other profession under the sun: “For many are called, but few are Chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
Thanks to God, I made it to one of the dream Law firms in the country – Wright and Co. and trained under one of the finest Lawyers and minds that Sierra Leone has ever had, Rowland S.V Wright Esq. Under the tutelage of, and now in partnership with, that brilliant and superb Lawyer, I have been able to imbibe and walk the length and breadth of practice at all levels – from the magistrate court to the Supreme court; dealt with all manner of clients – rich, poor, famous, feared, good and bad; handled the best of cases – criminal civil, low profile and high profile; and met with all classes of Clients; while still below 30.
To my mind, practice of the Law in Sierra Leone for a young lawyer is typical of practice in all other countries – You find yourself held up in the polarity of class struggle, enmeshed in society’s suspicions of lawyers, buoyed by people’s expectations, bamboozled by the corruption around you and distracted by the flaunting of wealth, avarice for money, gossips, cabals among judicial and legal circles, and the constant professional competition on knowledge and money among colleagues.
The above twists of the labyrinth of practice hide the rhapsody of reality that lie beneath a deep torrent lagoon which surface is pacified with the splendour, alacrity and panache that propitiously personify the profession. There is the proclivity for many a young lawyer to get carried away by the good life – the beautiful offices, the State of the Art Jeeps, the beautiful women, the expensive vacations abroad, the mesmerizing regalia and the constantly shifting myths surrounding practice which are all collectively called “the beauty of the profession”
I have come to agree that practice is different from knowledge of the law. No degree of knowledge of the law will prepare you for the topsy-turvy of practice – which include the good (like promises kept, kindness, enlightenment, quick money, passions, popularity, etc.); and the bad (like surprises, cunning, shrewdness, manipulations, hypocrisy, and meanness). It was Samuel Johnson who once said this of Lawyers:
“A Lawyer has no business with the justice or injustice of the cause which he undertakes unless his Client asks his opinion. . .the justice or injustice of the cause is decided by the judge.
When I dreamt of becoming a lawyer, justice was and still is my principal interest. Now though, I have gotten used to everyone else being otherwise whilst twisting words and meanings as they please with ease to make it suit every Client. Notwithstanding this reality check, I remain a fan of the law!
As I keep along this long vale of life, if I would die and reincarnate a man in Sierra Leone, I will certainly choose to be a Lawyer. A friend once told me that “all other occupations in Sierra Leone are a ‘trade’, and only the law is a ‘profession’”, I am beginning to believe it more and more. While other competing young professionals are walking far behind to keep up with the pace and gap set by their seniors, that gap is ironically far less widened at the Bar even though respect for seniority is a key part of the legal dogma. If you have the chance young one, do Law – hey, let me whisper in your ears, there are more students in law school than there are lawyers, the secret may have been discovered before you hear this – Get used to it, the young are coming.
Francis Ben Kaifala