I Will Never Again "Copy & Paste – Kingsley Onunwa

Kingsley Onunwa was called to the Nigerian Bar nine years ago. Among

other things , he shares with RAMON OLADIMEJI some of the lessons he

learnt in his early practice years

When were you called to the Bar and how many years have you been in practice ?

I was called to the Bar in 2008 and I have been in practice from that

time till now .

Can you recall the first time you presented a case in court ? If you

do , what makes the experience unforgettable?

It was a Magistrate's Court in Gombe State where I did my NYSC

programme. The head of the law firm informed me immediately I resumed

in the office that I would be the person to take the bail application

of a defendant who was accused of stealing. The defendant was already

remanded in the prison custody because when his matter came up in

court for the first time , he had no legal representation.

The matter was scheduled to come up again after two weeks. I spent

almost one week to rehearse only a bail application ! When the matter

came up in court and I moved the bail application , the magistrate

refused the application for a reason that I cannot explain till today

. Immediately after the ruling was delivered , I became downcast and

disheartened , but the firm applied for the bail at the high court and

succeeded .

Have you ever had any embarrassing moment in the course of practice ?

If yes, how did you handle it ?

Well, I can remember when I prepared and filed a motion on notice. The

senior lawyer on the other side read the written address accompanying

the motion and said it was a poetry and not argument on law ; he

laughed uncontrollably and I joined in the laughter too . I withdrew

that motion and prepared another one . It was then I learnt that if

you want to be a successful lawyer, do not claim to know everything;

make sure your written works are thoroughly vetted by another person

before you make them public.

Was there a mistake you made in your early days in practice that you

will never repeat?

Yes . I made some mistakes which I may not repeat again. One of such

mistakes is the one we call the habit of ' copy and paste '. I have

had to withdraw court processes after filling them in court because of

this kind of mistake.

What will make you reject a brief ?

What can make me reject a brief is the attitude of the client towards

how I handle the brief and if there is conflict of interest in a brief

that I am involved . There are some clients that claim to know more

than the lawyers and they will want to control the lawyer and how he

handles the case . These type clients will tell you that they know

some SANs who can do the work for them but that they want you to do

it, as if they are doing you a favour by bringing the brief to you .

When I get such clients , I know how to handle them.

The second reason is when I receive a brief which requires me to sue

one of my clients or relation . I will reject it and advise the client

to follow mediation to settle the dispute .

How do you react when you lose a case ?

If I lose any case that I am convinced I should not have lost, I will

immediately go on appeal without delay , with or without the financial

contribution of the client . I have done that before and the end was

worth it for me . I have to be convinced on the sound legal reasoning

that the judgment was premised upon .

What do you like most about practising on your own ?

I like the freedom it gives me to attend to my private and official

matters. I can arrange my programmes and daily routine without

restrictions . I control my time.

Is there something you envy about your contemporaries who are

practising under senior lawyers?

Yes , some of my contemporaries who practise under established senior

lawyers have the advantage of being exposed to some very complex areas

of law , like the shipping and admiralty , oil and gas , and

international trade and investment sectors of law .

Who are the people you look up to or admire in the legal profession ?

I like Chief Anthony Ikemefuna Idigbe (SAN), he is sound , calm and

articulate. I also like Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), he is a brilliant

Lawyer. I will not forget to mention late Hon. Justice Chukwudifu

Oputa, he was an astounding and quintessential jurist.

If you are in such a position , what will you like to change about

legal profession in Nigeria?

There is a litany of things that are not right in this legal

profession . One, not all cases must reach the Supreme Court of

Nigeria . Some of these cases that started at the agistrate court

should end at the high court or appeal court . Secondly , the Bar and

the bench should set up a committee to urgently review the delay in

the dispensation of justice in the country .

Thirdly , the judiciary should urgently find lasting solution to the

lingering problem of not informing lawyers when their cases will not

hold in court . It is sad when a lawyer travels from one state to

another only to be told by the court registrar that the court will not

sit .

The judiciary should partner an ICT firm to solve this problem ; it is

not difficult to implement .

Again, some of our judges do not have respect for lawyers and this

makes me sad when I see some judges disparaging lawyers in open court.

When lawyers are treated like that , how do you expect court clerks

and registrars to treat lawyers?

Again, the appointment of judges must be reviewed so that it will be

transparent and based on merit . It is sad to read poor and unsound

judgment from some of our judges .

About Temmyguru 12509 Articles
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