Who is “They”?
I recently convinced myself that a lot of young lawyers are without clear understanding of our mandate as lawyers. This, I say with all due respect knowing that I have to clearly explain why I choose to zoom in this way. For clarity, the aim of this inquiry is to reset the outlook young lawyers adopt in engaging the legal services community and to outline a key strategy for augmenting the quality of practice experience. This is both an introspection and a charge, so I invite you to walk this page with me without blame.
Often, young lawyers act like they live borrowed lives and that prerogative and choice have been ceded to one almighty deity known as “They”. When asked to define “They”, there is no clarity! I have made an attempt to describe “They” as “this transcendent being that has the ability to seize and control every single aspect of our lives and career, stealing our ability to choose and generally just messing things up”. Interestingly, “They” is the author of chaos, only shows up in bad situations because if things are going well, “They” is never at work. If we all take count, I am sure, we have a long list of situations where we alluded a failure of responsibility to almighty “They”.
There comes a time in the life of every lawyer where he or she has to own up to the fact that he/she is responsible for the trajectory of his/her life and career and the earlier that is, the better.
Let me expatiate, the Council of Legal Education, the Body of Benchers, the Supreme Court mutually agree on the day of our call and enrollment that we are worthy of the call and qualification and they back this up with certificates and attestations. The not-so subliminal message to society is that as a lawyer, you are ethically, morally and technically enabled to engage and in the terms of the lay-man, do business. This is an overwhelming amount of confidence reposed in us by these esteemed bodies, but when juxtaposed with the seeming helplessness we exhibit, it is to say the least, absurd.
The legal services community is a critical bastion of society and as young lawyers, we carry the baton of responsibility to ensure that the serving of law that is available is equivalent to the demands of society. We hold the compass; we determine mother law’s end. Personalizing this, whether we grow or wane, is largely driven by us. You and I are the drivers! It is not the law firm where we work or our location or the magnamity or cruelty of colleagues and patrons.
We have to enter into the consciousness of who we are as lawyers. We need to augment our thinking and improve our outlook to the work we do. The proverbial “They” is a myth, it is often, our hiding place when we refuse to take responsibility.
We need to get confident: What we have as lawyers is the privilege of enlightenment and we have to use it to benefit our world. This benefit is eroded when we choose to stay mentally lazy or rely on external motivation to propel us to action. I have been there, and I know it like the back of my hand, this mindset is regressive.
We need to get responsible: “They” are not called, YOU are called; what are you going to do with it? We have to explore until we get it, push, challenge and propel ourselves without motivation. Take self seriously and take ownership. In my first few years in practice, if I kept a coin for every time, I heard the words “take ownership” I would be wealthy.
Learn tact: Like with babies, the ways of men are learnt. Learn by books, by association, by fact-finding, but learn you must.
As we proceed to give the market what it demands for, we must ensure that we tooled up and discard the excuses that “They” so often give us.
I trust you get the message and wish you all the best!
OYEYEMI ADERIBIGBE is a Senior Associate at Templars. She is also the current
Vice-Chairman of the Young Lawyers’ Forum of the Nigerian Bar Association –
Section on Business Law and the Young Lawyers' Committee Liaison Officer of the
African Regional Forum of the International Bar Association.
Feedback – Oyeyemi.firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.