NIGERIA’S BEST KEPT LEGAL SECRETS SERIES – SECRET ONE
YOU ARE WHAT YOU READ
When I came into the legal profession less than ten years ago, everything seemed so mystical and exclusive. There was a way to look, a way to talk, a way to act and there were even sacred rules about maintaining seniority. The air of majesty around the profession gave me a sense of responsibility to be the best at it – I felt I owed it to all the wigs before me not to put the profession to shame. And you see that thing called shame, it is always lurking around the corner for the slack.
My job here today is simple, help you avoid shame by equipping you with the secrets that have kept the best of the best in the profession over the ages. Let’s get right into the First Secret, You Are What You Read.
I will bring to my aid the popular maxim, Vigilantibus non dormientibus, jura subveniunt which means the law aids the vigilant and not the indolent. We can replace the words. “the law” with “preparation” and it will help pass across the essence of my discourse. The Indolent here will refer to you if you believe that what you learnt in law school is enough to make you a successful legal practitioner and then you charge towards 50 or more years of legal practice ingloriously armed with that. The Indolent here will also be you if the last new thing you learnt about the law was from yesterday. Yesterday’s knowledge is never enough.
If you have ever been faced with a knowledge ambush in court or a client reached out with a question about an opportunity in a new frontier of legal interaction and you asked for time? Well, let us state it as it is, you weren’t prepared. What makes you who you are perceived to be – a learned fellow – lies in your ability to read deeply and widely. Let me add, voraciously, and then express the knowledge so gained. In the process of giving yourself over to this practice of reading, you will become, in every sense of it, the very knowledge that you seek. It is said of the legal luminary, Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, that he was an avid reader and his library is today reputed to be the largest private library in Nigeria with over a million books and non-book materials on various subject ranging from Law, Politics, Biographies, Religion, Social Sciences, Almanacs, Encyclopedia etc. We do not need to go far to establish that one of the secrets of his success as a legal practitioner and force in Nigeria was reading.
I will share with you the 4 critical steps you need to take to make the most of this first secret, starting with 2 this week:
HAVE A KNOWLEDGE GROWTH PLAN
Many of us humans, especially “professionals”, have this terrible habit of not consciously planning for knowledge growth outside of a learning system. What this means is that without courses or learning programmes, school, learning events and preparing for briefs, we would likely only consume knowledge as it comes or when we remember or have a need for it again.
You need to actively and consciously break out of this common mistake. Have a knowledge growth plan. You can design it to be vertical, i.e, around your select areas of expertise, knowledge gaps or areas of interest. This implies that you will be building upon your knowledge through blocks you have set in place. This makes it vertical in nature. Conversely, your design or plan can be horizontal. This is what I referred to earlier as reading widely. Here you pick up as many subject areas as possible to gain knowledge of over a period of time. They are not necessarily areas of expertise or interest.
BUILD A MOBILE LIBRARY
I was already practising for about three years when I was shot down by a learned friend who exhibited superior knowledge about discountenancing a motion I was moving in court. The argument was simple, this is what the law says currently based on Statutory provisions supported by case law. He cited a more recent case law that although it didn’t make my position wrong, provided him with an addition that served as an opening for his client to hide under and get the Judge to rule against my motion. Suffice to say, I did not have a comeback at hand. I went home wishing I had something I could have found in court to use against him – I was fairly certain there ought to be something. Fortunately, I found a case law position of a higher court that gave conditions to the expansion made by the lower court and used that in my comeback at the next sitting.
It would seem that I got a good ending, but imagine the weeks I could have saved by simply having a mobile library of legal resources to consult right in the courtroom! There are different such solutions and e-libraries out there in the market, but the singular solution with far more tools and resources is the LawPavilion Prime, now with the Textbooks and Journals feature. Prime offers you a comprehensive e-library of legal resources, ranging from Case Law, Civil Procedure Rules, to Statutory provisions all with an Index and Digest covering up to 62 years of legal information. It can be used offline which means that you can access it even in the most remote places without Internet access.
Its new Textbooks and Journals feature allows you to buy or rent books and save them on the application on your device for consultation and re-consultation. What is more; the books include annotations that link you to cited laws or case law within them. This gives you a holistic legal research experience by tying together books with statutes and judgments/case laws.
An added advantage of the Textbooks and Journals feature within the popular LawPavilion Prime solution is tied to another critical step you need to take to make the most of this first secret in this series of Nigeria’s best kept legal secrets. I will share that with you in the next newsletter. Make sure you save my email address in your Contacts, so you don’t miss it. Also, drop your comment below and I will write to you back. It is a huge opportunity that is available to you with Prime.