It had started as a great day but it quickly deteriorated.
I start my job at a law firm today. I am a lawyer, and I have being called to the Nigerian bar. After five years in the university and a year in law school with service year as the last phase, I have definitely earned the right to be called a barrister. I don’t care what those stripped ‘coat’ and tweed jacket wearing, stuffy, old professors say about it. According to them, you need to have practical experience before you can call yourself a barrister. But, I have earned my stripes, darn it.
I am so excited to start at my new job today. It signifies the end of an era, the beginning of a new life and the continuity of a process to me. It is the end of run-down classrooms, the beginning of shiny offices and the continuity of learning albeit from people and not from books.
If you are a lawyer, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. The exhilaration you feel to get out from under the shadow of your professors and their archaic method of practicing law and the thrill of getting to practice law of the 21st century. It’s like an aphrodisiac to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my lecturers (maybe), I’m just glad to be done with them (definitely).
So, my day starts really well. I will be dropped off at the office by my dad because it’s on his way to work. This will be our usual routine; he’ll drop me in the morning and by the close of work, I’ll find my way back home. I don’t mind, it’s less stress for me and I’ll have some time with my dad every morning.
So, after taking a cup of beverage and some bread, we set out. We have to leave early so as to beat the Lagos traffic. In Lagos, you have to be very innovative with traffic. You learn when to leave the house to work so as to drive against the flow of traffic and you learn when to leave work so as to avoid rush hour, even if it means staying later than you should have, knowing you won’t be paid overtime. Such is Lagos life.
Despite the precautions taken, I get to the office late, just a few minutes after eight. On getting there, I meet my co-workers in a meeting with the partners. A meeting is usually held every Monday morning to go over the previous weeks’ work load and to strategize anew. I sneak into the conference room where the meeting is taking place and sit quietly in a chair by the corner.
“Nice of you to join us Miss Leona. I hope you don’t plan on making this the norm?” the senior partner, Barr Chuks asks.
“N…n…no sir.” I stutter. “I got stuck in traffic.”
“Really? What a shame!”
I hear snickers around the room as the other staff thought my predicament is funny. This is so not how I want to start my first day here. I had it all planned out; get to the office early, prepare for the meeting, think of something precise to contribute and then go in with confidence. Oh well, you know what they say about the best laid plans.
“Try not to get stuck tomorrow okay?” he looks at me over the rim of his spectacles.
“Yes sir.” I sit down dejectedly. I brave one quick look at the faces in the room but they are all focused on the boss. One lady is still looking at me though, she smiles and I smile back, grateful to see at least one friendly face here.
I turn my attention to what Barr Chuks is saying, but despite my best intentions I find my attention drifting. As an intern, I imagine I’ll have a lot to do here. I’m especially looking forward to when I have to go to court with my senior colleagues. I’ll like to feel the excitement of the courtroom and experience firsthand what the lecturers talked about.
I am jolted out of my day dream when I hear my name. “Miss Leona, do you have anything to contribute to what I’m saying. I can see you smiling; maybe you think it’s funny?”
I feel such dismay. For the life of me, I do not know what he is talking about as I have not been listening for the past five minutes. Every eye in the room is turned to me once more. Could this morning get any worse?
“Erm…erm…I agree with you sir.” I finally stammer, rallying.
“You agree with me?”
“On what, pray tell? What do you agree with?”
Now, I am really done for. What to say? I look to the faces of my fellow colleagues but no help was forthcoming in that area. The answer is not written on their faces, some even turned from me as if I am leprous. I decide to brave the truth and suffer the consequences. After all, I am at fault here.
I looked Barr Chuks full in the face. “I was not listening to you sir. I’m very sorry.”
I see something shift in his eyes. I know he is not expecting the truth from me and to hear me say it, a grudging respect show in his eyes. “Pay better attention next time.” he said
“Yes sir.” I answer enthusiastically. I was expecting something worse. It quickly went downhill from there though.