When lawyers pick undesirable tricks from their clients
Every time I see lawyers, resplendent in their black robes and wigs, I am reminded of the simile “as frizzled as a lawyer’s wig”.
I imagine you were taught about similes, too, but you thought only future scribes, such as yours truly, needed to remember those things.
Well, you are neither right nor wrong.
I also imagine you were taught about verbs and adverbs, synonyms, antonyms, conjunctions, adjectives, pronouns and stuff that made your mind fuzzy.
But that is a topic for another day.
I was telling you about lawyers. There is a way they can make you feel they know more than they do. How they pull this trick is a real mystery but I have a hunch one way they bamboozle you is by using foreign words and phrases, especially Latin.
Now, if a lawyer in those intimidating black robes and wig starts to infuse their submissions with words such as mutatis mutandis, prima facie, ad infinitum, ex post facto, ipso facto, suo moto, et al, you know you are in trouble, unless you are the magistrate or judge hearing the matter. Or another lawyer.
Most folks who attend courts to hear cases try to wear intelligent looks (especially when they float!) when lawyers apply the legal jargon, for which simpler terms are easily available. But how will you know the folks read the law?
Largely because of this ability to infuse Latin and French into English and to use 100 words when 20 would have sufficed, lawyers are revered by many folks.
In my days as a reporter, I covered many court cases and met many lawyers, many of whom are still my friends.
There was one (name withheld for fear of legal reprisals) who required patience and a sharp ear if you were to understand what he was saying.
For instance, when he attempted to say “stab wounds” what we all heard was “stamp wood” and the magistrate stopped writing to ask that he repeats what he just said.
For a few of them, when we are enjoying a beer, those Latin things are forgotten. Alcohol can do strange things to people. Which is one reason I love it. It brings out the truth in people. That is why it is said what is in the head when there is no wine is what comes out when there is wine in the head. I know that sounds clever. I picked it somewhere. I forgot where. Again, that is a topic for another day.
Back to our lawyer fraternity story.
I know you have heard lawyers, especially those who get involved in big cases that are covered on national TV using the Queen’s language as if they were born in London.
Granted, a few trained abroad, which explains their accent. But majority of them grew up in rural settings so the accent with plenty of swag is just put on not unlike the flowing black robes.
By the way, if it is true that if you go to school in the United States for a few years you pick an American drawl, how come those who go to India do not acquire any accent?
Now, there is a lawyer who is keen to learn from his client. Just the other day, you must have heard about the guy who turned up in court drunk. It was said the ground appeared to be shifting from under his feet. Yes, you heard right.
What was stranger than fiction was that this lawyer was appearing for a client who was charged with—hold your breath —being drunk and disorderly! Haiya!
In what may pass for a movie scene, you can picture the guy staggering in court, putting his briefcase on the lawyers’ Bench and trying to sit, at first on the armrest and tipping into the seat.
“Your Honour, my name ish sho and sho and I am to representing my client who ish shtill nashing a hangover…”
It happened at a Kakamega court. The magistrate ordered that he be locked up until he sobers up. It was not clear if this lawyer became a State guest for a few hours but his colleagues made noise about it.
Well, strange things do happen.
Have a sober week, folks!
– The writer is Special Projects Editor, People Daily