The pupil, the lawyer

by Kevin Andego

This topic speaks an entire universe to the participants of the legal profession and especially to its protagonists, the learning and learned allies. To those whose hearts do not resonate with this profession and whom English has christened ‘laymen’, the topic might fail to ring a bell or if it does, ring the wrong bell, for its ringing may easily remind them of those joyful days in primary school, when we were innocent and naive, the jolly old days.

As for anyone who may take issue with my use of the word layman, may they remember that it is not meant to be and will never be a belittling word; it is only a quick way of describing that person who is not well versed in an area with which you are fairly acquainted. For example, a doctor would refer to a non-doctor or someone who is not well versed in medicine as a layman; children will refer to their parents as laymen in matters of toys and cartoons, and so on and so forth.

Nevertheless, my kindness or lack of it, prompted by my prudence or lack of it, urges me to appeal to the patience of anyone who has not yet captured the gist of the topic. My friend, for my sake kindly endure. Pretty soon your patience will be wholesomely rewarded.

Now, reverting to our topic. It all starts with that momentous morning, when you get up feeling like you are capable of successfully defending and securing the acquittal of even the most wanted criminal on the globe. That morning, when you feel sufficiently philanthropic and inexplicably charitable enough to iron any mega-creased shirt belonging to anyone who only had the fortune of asking. Yes, that morning, when the smile spread on your face reminds your mum of the joy she had that day when she first held you. The morning when you are to commence your pupillage. That morning your mind goes back to experiences that you hope to immortalize one day in your autobiography. Experiences at The Kenya School of Law.

To what shall I compare this august institution? The great Professor of Law (who is currently its Director) called it the “Intellectual Pentecost”, as if to imply that, just as on the day of Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus Christ received the Holy Spirit who sowed in them an unbridled desire for good unto their death, the intellectual Pentecost would sow in us an unmatchable desire for knowledge unto our death.

Nevertheless, we were there, for nine months we were there, and we were buttered by this intellectual Pentecost into what we are now. Then the Council of Legal Education checked in wielding the bar exams, and it was David against Goliath all over again. Only this time, Goliath did not expose his Achilles’ heel. Many of us made profound discoveries: while the bar wines leave you with a clear longing for more, the bar exams leave you with an unclear mixture of undesirable emotions. I dare not say more. The rest, as they say, is history.

Pupils don’t fancy speaking about the bar exams; in fact, there is a law of nature that forbids them from entertaining the topic for too long on their lips. I wish I knew the identity of this natural law, but then again, if the philosopher Aristotle failed to unearth it, who am I to even try? Those of us who are successful in the exam rejoice in our silence, while those of us who are unsuccessful moan in our silence.

Even when we have to speak of a second bite at the cherry, we use well selected words, careful not to demystify what must remain in the vault of mystery. We say, “The Judge wants to reopen my case, and correct some aspects of it, he thinks it has a potential of becoming a locus classicus.” or “My doctor requested me for a re-appointment, he says he might have found a cure for my perennial ailment, I will see him in July. Pray for me.” Our dear legal profession, for how long must we keep up the toil before you reward our loyalty? Long have we waited.

There is for sure more to say about our KSL and CLE, but that is a story for another day. The pupil leaves home and swiftly makes for the lawyers’ chambers, commonly known as the law firm. Now, it is well settled for any human with a brain that subscribes to reason that the courtroom is the haven of justice. What is yet to be settled — but will soon be — is the reality that law firms are the pillars of the haven of justice.

I have heard a joke before which goes like this; “virtue lies in the middle,” said the devil sitting between two lawyers. I know this is a joke and a good one, but I also know the lawyer jokes are part of a smear undertaking spearheaded by those who have denied the lawyer his right to be ordinary. They insist on calling us liars but as soon as we invite them to probe the probity of our trade, they take to their heels for their want of probity. Anyway, the pillars of the havens of justice are a sine qua non for any society that has tasted justice and discovered that it is tasty.

The pupil excitedly enters the chambers and is greeted with an array of beaming faces. There is one face however, that arrests the pupil’s attention more than the rest, for it usually expresses a greater joy. The pupil is gladdened by this one the most and can’t wait to forge strong friendly ties. Only much later does the pupil realize that this face, more than being one of joy for seeing him, is one of joy for being relieved by him.

The pupil has to take up the cross carried by all pupils and it is one that he carries with merriment. Pupillage is a formal relationship between a pupil, who is that person who has been through KSL, and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, of at least five years standing, and who has obtained a current practising certificate. In this relationship, the advocate who is called the pupil master undertakes to train the pupil in the trade and the pupil undertakes to learn from his or her master. The relationship lasts the length of six months.

Pupillage has its heavy, light and many memorable moments. A good friend told me that the work of a senior is to delegate and forget while the work of a pupil is to venerate and remember. But also, we cannot forget that when having a meal together, the work of a pupil is to partake and submit the bill while the work of a senior is to check and foot the bill; in the end, everyone works. Nevertheless, the happiest of the pupils is the one who has as his motto the statement: “work that is done with more love and dedication is more fulfilling than one that is done with less love and less dedication.” The pupil must therefore unsling his bag and take up the gauntlet with gusto.

The pillars of the havens of justice are not the only places where pupils can pursue their pupilage. Pupils are also found in Parliament, County Governments and Assemblies, The Attorney- General’s Office, The office of the Director of Public Prosecution, the Judiciary, Banks and many other auspicious organizations. In short, we are ubiquitous, not because lawyers by nature want to be everywhere, but because nature has made lawyers necessary everywhere.

Law is a noble profession. The one problem we have is that there are some who want to think that to be a good lawyer, one must be a politician. Nothing can be further from the truth. Not that I have a problem with politics, it’s just that law and politics are two distinct, separate, independent and unconnected fields. Besides, a political career ends when one chooses to stop pursuing politics, but a lawyer never ceases being a lawyer; even though the person and the trade are distinct, the two are inseparable, until death does them part.

Many have lauded the elocution of lawyers. A lawyer becomes a good orator over time because he is an avid reader, his acuity is constantly being tested, a lawyer is paid to speak and if not to speak, he is paid to put his cogitation in writing. Court rooms are the most entertaining, especially when they are addressing, “Your Honour,” “My Lady,” and “My Lord.”

They say, ‘Your Honour, the defendant accuses my client of blatantly obfuscating the facts. Such mendacious accusations have been made with an intention to pilfer justice from my client and are most injurious to his impeccable curriculum vitae.’ This of course I say only in jest; the truth is that there are some who are enthused by the use of sophisticated words, while others are okay with keeping it simple. We all know the rainbow’s beauty lies in its diversity. Nevertheless, I am not ashamed to rub this in; lawyers who fall in love with law and the service of people have the capacity to speak like angels.

It would be unjust to the keepers of justice if this article were to end without a paragraph dedicated to them. The courts. Not the courts of your majesty but the courts of your honour. The courts which can reduce the length of day to 20 hours and order that the sun rise in the west with no leave for the sun to appeal. The courts which can sentence a convicted person to two life imprisonments with the second one being keenly held in abeyance. Yes, you dunce, I’m talking about the courts of law.

It has been said in case law that the Courts must never shy away from doing justice because if they did not do so, justice has the capacity to proclaim itself from the mountaintops and to open up the Heavens and rain itself upon us. Courts are the temples of justice and the last frontier of the rule of law. Therefore, in court the role of the advocate is to expose what is just while that of the judge is to proclaim what is just.

One would ponder at this point, “What is the role of the pupil in court?” Well, partly, the role of the pupil is to abuse his clairvoyance. To point out the future winner in the disputes in court. His verbal fare should go something like, “That advocate’s argument is potent. He will win. The other advocate’s argument has massive leakage. It hardly holds a drop of water, and he will have to eat his opponent’s dust.” Pupils also utilize the courts to fill their curious minds with knowledge. A pupil’s mind should be like a female anopheles mosquito which never gives up.

After all this rich experience, when the sun has resolved to abandon our side of the earth, the pupil slings his bag over his shoulder, puts his best foot (he has two of these) forward and makes for home. His mind is fully resolved. He will never look back. I must be the best I want to see in this world. That is his resolution, the resolution of the pupil, the lawyer.

Feature image: Source unknown.

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