Amicus Curiae 1: Ambulance Chaser

Yayy! It’s finally Friday and here is the first episode of my new series, Amicus Curiae. If you did not read yesterday’s teaser, you can do that here before proceeding to read this episode one. The teaser sets the tone for Episode one. More like a prologue…. Episode two will be posted next week Friday. Let me know what you think of this episode in the comment column below. Happy Weekend, people!

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AMBULANCE CHASER

 

girls-night-out-drinks-475

 

Folayemi alighted from the rickshaw in haste when it got to Magodo Brooks gate. Today was the first day of the Chambers Attachment – a compulsory programme on the Nigeria Law School calendar – and she was already late. The words of her mother whizzed into her head:

“A good bride must be diligent in all she does.”

These words of her mother – now, more of a proverb – have been used in a plethora of situations – instructional, correctional, motivational and directional. Whenever Folayemi fell short of an expectation, her mother would use the words to caution her – as she would a bride – and whenever she exceeded an expectation, her mother would also use the same cliché as an affirmation of what would be expected of her in marriage. There was no limit to whatever situation the cliché could be applied.

“Diligence is doing what you have to do when you have to do it,” her mother would say. “If you abide by this as a bride, you can never be found wanting.”

Folayemi knew she should have woken up earlier today. But she did not. She could not. Her night was a long one. A couple of students at the Lagos law school campus where she stayed had organised a party at Club Uno to mark the eve of the attachment programme. She had no intention of attending it. She dared not. Clubs, parties and generally, crowded places, scare her. A phobia of some sort. All she wanted to do the previous night upon returning from the library was to climb up to Room 300, bury herself in her bed, catch a few hours’ sleep and then wake in the middle of the night to continue with her books. However, her roomies had other ideas. Led by the ever energetic queen of parties, Yewande, the girls of Room 300 ensured Folayemi’s plans were truncated. They had locked her wardrobe where she kept her books, ensuring she could not reach them. They also pulled and hid her bed sheet, making sure if she ever lay on the bed, her body would be exposed to the rough uncovered mattress. She was only promised a return of her properties if she joined them to Club Uno. Folayemi was more of a bookworm who loved keeping to herself. Her roommates were bent on losing her up that night for once since they became roomies. She had no way out but to budge. And today, she paid the price for that little fun. She woke up late.

Magodo Brooks estate was an extension of the popular Magodo Phase 2 estate located along CMD road in Kosofe Local Government Area. Folayemi, who still lived on the law school campus at Victoria Island had to make her way to Magodo Brooks all the way from there.

She stood at the massive gate of Magodo Brooks estate, and stole a glance at her wristwatch. It was 10:10am.

“Not good. Not good,” she muttered to herself. She should have resumed by 8:00am.

You’ll probably get fired on your first day at work, a voice in her head said.

I’m not here to work. I’m here to learn, she heard herself reply.

“Can I help you?” a voice behind her said.

She turned around and standing before her was a man in uniform. Folayemi spotted a tag around the man’s arm which read: Halogen Securities. She knew he was the estate guard.

“Yes,” she replied, heaving a deep sigh of relief. “I’m going to TOP.”

“Top?”

“No. T. O. P…”

The security guard shook his head. “You are at the wrong place. Have you checked Magodo Phase 2?”

“What?” Folayemi muttered in disbelief. Although Magodo Brooks was an extension, it was still some fifteen minutes’ walk from Magodo Phase 2. “You mean I have to go on another voyage?”

“Vo…kini?” the guard asked.

“Voy…” Folayemi stopped short of completing the word and waved her right hand instead. “Forget it. You mean you don’t have The OakTree Partners in this estate?”

“Oh! The OakTree?!” the security guard exclaimed. “You mean the law firm?”

“Yes.”

“Ah-ah, Madam. Na wetin you for talk na. OakTree dey here na…..”

Folayemi heard herself take a deep breath and exhale. “Please could you point me to its direction?”

The security guard in a nonchalant pace, strolled away from Folayemi, into his post.

“Madam, do you have an appointment there?” he asked.

“Yes,” Folayemi answered curtly, looking rather apoplectic with the question. She remembered how a bodyguard at Club Uno asked her the same question the previous night because of her dress code. He had made fun of her coming to a club dressed in an evening gown meant for dinners. Whilst he let Yewande and her other roomies in, he asked Folayemi to go get “properly” dressed. Folayemi was not perturbed one bit. She felt it was a sign from God that she was meant to study that night and not party. As she made to leave, she spotted a little scuffle at the parking lot. Two Cops had approached a man who had just arrived. The guard manning the door of the club appeared to know the man who was being accosted by the Cops. So he reached for his walkie-talkie, called for backup and then, rushed over to have a word with the Cops. Before he returned, the fair maiden in dinner gown had “disappeared”.

“With whom?” the security guard at Magodo Brooks asked, breaking Folayemi’s reverie.

“See, I am already late. I am a law…”

“Lawyer?” the guard concluded. “Ah Madam. So you be lawyer? Can I see your ID card?” The guard said with a cheeky smile. “Or….if you don’t have an ID card, then Madam…” he said, rubbing his palms together.

It was at this point Folayemi got the message. The guard had been rambling all along because he needed a tip for a service he was yet to render. Folayemi dug her hand into her bag and pulled out a two hundred naira bill.

“Ehen. Na now you come Madam,” the guard said as he collected the bill. Then he pointed to an adjacent gate. “Na OakTree be that.”

Folayemi could not believe her eyes. The firm was a walking distance from the gate. She shook her head at the guard and scampered away in a hurry.

***

OakTree Partners was one of the foremost law firms in the country. It boasts of three Senior Advocates of Nigeria, eight senior lawyers, fourteen junior lawyers, and a couple of paralegals and in-house staff. The firm was established in the eighties by three friends who had met while still at the University of Lagos. They had set up OakTree Partners immediately after they were called to the Nigerian Bar. They never worked for anyone. None of them was from a wealthy background either, so, they had to build OakTree right from the scratch.

They started out as ambulance chasers, hanging around court premises to solicit jobs from frustrated litigants. They would charge from extremely low sums to outrageously ridiculous peanuts as professional fees. And they would prosecute from the most unthinkable of cases – like suing a dog owner for not feeding his dog thrice a day – to filing the most ridiculous of court processes – an application to declare “sleeping on duty” a fundamental human right. Of course, most of their court actions did not see the light of day, however, the actions made them notorious.

Gradually, they became known across the country for prosecuting difficult and unconventional cases. Their clients’ base grew from pauper litigants to multinational conglomerates. They were the first stop for politicians who were wanted by the InterPol and oil companies who were involved in billion-dollar suits for violation of environmental laws.

As a result of their tenacious practice, the motto of the firm was changed to salus in ardius – a latin phrase for “a stronghold or refuge in difficult times”.

 
Photo Credit:  Cornell’s Jewelers
 

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