A New Wig’s Guide To Litigation is a Guest Series of 4 posts submitted by Morenike Okebu (Lawyer and Partner at GM George Taylor & Co.)
We’ve finally come to the end of this series and I hope that you have been able to pick up a thing or two that would enhance your career in litigation.
Litigation is an art that is specifically designed for those who have a legal mind. There may be many lawyers, but not everyone has a legal mind. A legal mind is the mark that helps you spot subtle differences between two cases that can change the direction of the verdict. A legal mind should be developed by reading law reports, newspaper editorials on law and articles by legal scholars.
I leave you with my favourite exercise for every new wig. One I encountered first during my Understanding Law lecture at the University of Sheffield – it is the curious case of the Speluncean Explorers. Three men travelled on a boat and were shipwrecked. They soon ran out of food and water. One of the men fell ill and the other two decided that since they would all die, they should cast lots. The person upon whom the lot fell would be eaten so the other two would survive. The two cast lots, the third man who was sick did not participate. The lot fell on the third man and he was killed and eaten. Just as they finished eating, a ship came and saved them.
The question I always ask is this, Is there any way that under Nigerian law, the two who survived can be found innocent of murder? I want you to pick a side. Now argue against the side you picked. I will share with you some of the arguments for their guilt and innocence:
|The mens rea was there they intended to kill the man. The actus rea was there, they actually killed the third man.
|Suicide is a crime. They knew if they didn’t kill someone they would die, so they killed him so they wouldn’t be guilty of committing suicide
|He didn’t participate in the lots so it was unfair they included him.
|It was self – defence
|The third man could have recovered from the illness
|The man would have died from illness anyway
Being a lawyer in litigation means you can take up a brief either as prosecution or defence in the above case and come up with arguments on both sides. When you address the court, you must do so with confidence. Your arguments should be well thought out. When you go to court do not only think of what you are going to say, also try to predict the arguments opposing Counsel may raise and counter them. So even if you were for the Prosecution you should have a table like the one above which also considers what Counsel to the Defendant may argue.
At the end of it all, don’t take any case personally, even when you lose. The Judge is simply doing his job, the same as opposing Counsel. Who knows – that same Judge may deliver a judgment in your favour next time and you and opposing Counsel may be on the same side in your next case. If you lose a case, don’t go around condemning the Judge, examine whether you actually did a good job. Did you cross-examine properly? What could you do better next time? What did you learn?
As I conclude this series, I hope that you have found this guide useful. I must add that whilst my journey in litigation started with the Legal Aid Council, it was under the tutelage of Mr Wemimo Ogunde SAN, a very intelligent lawyer with great integrity that I actually became good at what I did. Now, I not only understand litigation but I can train anyone to do it. I tell you this because you need a mentor in order to succeed in litigation. You need the guidance of someone who is good at this job as they through their years of experience can teach you things that no book or lecturer ever could.
Thank you for reading.