Folayemi was welcomed to the firm with a growl by the Front Desk Officer, a fiercely dressed lady in her mid-thirties. After a few minutes of scolding for resuming late, Folayemi was directed to a large conference room where nine other law students were seated. She recognised a few faces from the Lagos Campus, but could not care less about exchanging silent pleasantries. A young man in denim pants, a T-Shirt and a face cap was having a chat with the group. Folayemi could surmise he was delivering a welcome speech, but from the way he was dressed, she could not tell if he was a lawyer or a paralegal.
He acknowledged her arrival with a wave of hand, directing her to a free seat.
Then he said, “diligence is the bedrock of the work we do here.”
The phrase lit a spark on Folayemi’s face. There was no chance that her mother’s spirit dwelt in this young man.
“A lawyer should do what he has to do when he has to do it,” the young man continued.
Folayemi’s face straightened out. No smile. No smirk. No emotions. This was awkward. Her mother’s spirit could not dwell in this young man right before her eyes.
“You,” the young man pointed at Folayemi. “Could you tell us: why are we here?”
Folayemi struggled with her seat as she got up.
“No, no. Sit and answer,” the young man advised.
“Ummm…” Folayemi slurred. “We are…here to …..”
To fulfil the damn Law School requirement of undergoing a compulsory tutelage at a Law Firm.
Folayemi decided against going with that thought. Instead, she answered thus, “we are here to contribute our quota to the development of law practice in our beloved country by fulfilling every tasks we are assigned. I believe in the process of doing this, we will also contribute to the growth of this firm.”
Her response sounded more like a quote from a textbook than a spontaneous reaction, but it appeared to have made an impression on her colleagues and the young man in denim pants, who all nodded in agreement.
“Quite impressive,” the young man said. “But that is the wrong answer.”
There was silence in the conference room.
“You all are here to make money for this firm,” the young man continued. “I believe by now you all know OakTree is not the conventional law firm around. Heck. We are not a law firm. We are mercenaries, soldiers, combatants, super heroes…. We fight to the death for our clients. We never take no for an answer. We fight dirty, we fight bloody.”
He paused to take a sip of water from a glass.
“Do you know our type of clients?” he asked the now more attentive audience. Then he pointed to a young man in striped suit. “You, tell us.”
The law student stood up and before he could speak, he was asked to return to his seat.
“You don’t need to get up to answer a simple question,” the young man in denim pants advised. “That’s the problem with our educational system – you guys are human robots: you were raised to know certain rules and you are expected to respond accordingly. Right here at OakTree, we act differently. In due course, we shall break you guys down and re-assemble you.” He heaved, then continued, “Now, to my question. What type of clients do we handle here?”
The law student stuttered, “Past Presidents…ummm… Senators, Ministers, Commissioners – I mean, Politicians generally,…Ummm, oil companies… multinational corporations, banks…”
“Stop,” the young man in denim jeans interrupted. “Right here at OakTree, we deal with looters, murderers, high calibre thieves, fraudsters, prostitutes, paedophiles, rapists, ritualists, cyber hackers, cultists, drug dealers, militants – basically, the scumbags of the earth.”
A wave a shock swirled around the room at this point. The law students, in all their innocence, looked shell-shocked at the revelation. They could barely believe the sort of practise they would have to put up with in the course of the attachment programme.
The young man in denim jeans sensed the tension and decided to cut through their consciousness with a clap.
“I know what you all must be thinking at this point,” he said and stopped clapping. “But really, that is not the case. We are not damned. To the contrary, we are fulfilling the gospel which is to give hope to the hopeless. Everyone deserves a second chance. Yes, some do get third, fourth, fifth chances…” he shrugged. “Humanity deserves that, for its own sake. No one deserves to be condemned. The good Lord would not permit that.” He paused, strolled over to a close-by bookshelf and pulled out a small book. “This,” he said in a deep assuring voice “is the Bible.” Then he flipped through the pages of the book and read out, “You have heard that it was said, “love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” He stopped abruptly. “These are the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew five versus forty three to forty six. They are not my words.”
“Sir, I thought you said we are here to make money,” another member of the audience said cheekily.
“Oh yes. This class of people – the murders, fraudsters and looters – always pay through their noses, if you know what I mean.”
The young man in denim pants went on about how serving this class of people was also a fulfilment of the law and the expectations of the firm from the law students on attachment. He also took them on a tour of the office complex, which is an eleven storey building, introducing the students to the different departments within the firm, the lawyers, paralegals and the office appurtenances. The law students were thrilled and fascinated at the massiveness of the structure and its organisation. They walked in twos and kept engaging in chitchats amongst themselves as they paraded the corridors and hallways.
Folayemi walked behind the group, alone. She was never the social type. Back at the law school campus, she was never known to have any particular “best friend”. She never had any friends. Everyone was an acquaintance. This lifestyle earned her the title “snub” but she was not a snub. At least, she did not think herself so.
At this point, a male colleague walking in front of her started backtracking so he could be on the same walking pace as her.
“Isn’t this awesome?” he whispered.
“Ummm, I guess,” Folayemi retorted, not wanting to be distracted from the tour.
“I don’t mean the building,” her counterpart chipped in. “I mean the practice.”
Folayemi shrugged and shook her head. She was not in the mood for a chitchat.
“I mean, we get to represent drug dealers, murderers, prostitutes…Prostitutes?” Folayemi’s partner continued. She stole a quick glance at him for the first time. He was the law student in striped suit who had answered the question of the man in denim pants. There was so much glee spread across his face.
“And how is that fun?” she asked.
“Fun? It’s fascinating!” he almost yelled. “I mean, criminal law has always been my thing right from university – I graduated from the Great Ife by the way – I won the LAWSA award for best student in criminal law…. My project was centred around the practise of sorcery in traditional Nigerian society and its legal implications…. I could make a copy of my project for you if you care…”
“Oh, never mind.”
“My dad is a lawyer. He practices in Abuja…”
“Uh, yeah,” Folayemi said curtly, wanting to put an end to her colleague’s unsolicited chat.
“I decided not to do my attachment with my dad because…”
Just before Folayemi’s partner could complete his statement, the man in denim pants announced, “Welcome to your office.”
Folayemi looked around. They were in an oval-shaped office which housed a set of neatly arranged cubicles. The cubicles were numbered from one to ten. The office wall was white and spotless with a number of bookshelves standing against it. Split unit air conditioners clung, attached to the glittering emerald roofs, pouring their chilly breeze into yawning space. About six large-screen muted plasma televisions were strategically mounted across the room.
“These cubicles shall be your offices for the duration of your attachment programme,” the man in denim pants said. “But trust me, you will hardly sit in them as you will either be in the library or on the field, saving sinners,” he said with a wry smile. “You can use your intercoms to reach whichever lawyer or personnel,” he said, pointing to an intercom close by. “Each desk has one of thes…”
Just before he could complete his words, the intercom he was pointing at, buzzed. He picked it.
“Hello?” he said.
The law students examined the cubicles as he attended to the call. Then, one after the other, they scurried to pick choice seats. Folayemi waited until the kamikaze rush was over. Then she strolled to the only cubicle left unoccupied. It was cubicle Number Ten and it was stationed close to a wall of transparent glass which revealed the outside environment. She could see the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, as well as the little CMD road from where she sat. She also spotted a few peasants plying petty trades by the road side.
“Murder? When?” the man in denim pants asked. “Which station?…. Okay. I’m on it.”
With those words, he replaced the intercom handle.
“Okay, listen up guys. Here is how we roll,” he said. “One of you shall be voted to be your Group Head. He or she will be responsible for interfacing with the Practice Manager on behalf of the whole group.” He paused. “For now, I need you and you to come with me now,” he said, pointing at Folayemi and the male law student in striped suit.
The three figures walked out of the oval-shaped office, heading out to solve yet another mystery case.