Guest posts, Lifestyle

Becoming an Advocate By Onyango

Golden scales of justice, gavel and books on brown background

(Yesterday we took our oaths as Advocates of the High Court of Kenya. One of my colleagues, who insists that he should be known only as Onyango, has decided to document his story. Everyone has a story. Some lost weight in Law School. Others lost hair (hehehe). But today we are listening to Onyango’s tale. So let’s get rolling)

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It has been really long since I penned down my thoughts. Every time I want to put my thoughts down something holds me back. Wish I knew what really holds me back. I would simply deal with it and do what I think I love. Writing! But ooh well here I am.

On Tuesday, 21st March, 2017 I signed the Roll of Advocates after my admission to the bar. It has been a whooping eight year journey since I completed my High School education. It has been that long! Anyway who is counting? As I write this I am tempted to look back and wonder where I went wrong and if it is my fault pursuing me like a thief. I am also tempted to look forward and forget the past. I am tempted to write about now and not think about either the past or the future.

To be honest, if the past was to be forgotten, then this story wouldn’t have a starting point, if I was only to look at the past, this story wouldn’t have a future, a striving to look forward to. If I was to dwell in the present and forget about the past and the future, then this would be a fallacy.

I never really wanted to be a Lawyer. I looked at lawyers as cheaters and war-mongers who were only hell bent on arguments but never reaching or providing a solution. Who only looked at the negative small pieces, over-looking the bigger picture! Ooh well, that’s exactly what law is about, being attentive to details that others don’t really see. Being patient enough to read between the lines and not over-look anything. It’s all about pin-pointing a small missed point. That’s the only way one can be a good advocate. Having an eye to details! I digress.

So I never really wanted to be an advocate. When we were selecting the courses after high school, I never even put it as one of my choices for crying out loud! All I saw was how I was going to be a great engineer who would change the dynamics of civil and structural engineering. I was so fascinated with this engineering business that I invented my own formulas during physics classes which turned out to work pretty well. (Don’t ask me to identify one). I honestly don’t know where that vigor went because for years now, even doing a simple structure like mounting an aerial is a daunting task. I keep asking myself, where is the manual? Just so that I can read and get it right the first time. Strange! Very strange indeed! Okay maybe not mounting an aerial, something else, more involving.

And so when I went to get my admission letter, I had been called to study law. I remember my mother, God rest her soul in eternal peace, pointing me towards the direction of The University of Nairobi, from railways as if it was a stone throw away. The first time I go lost. Really lost. By the time I was reaching the place, it was lunch time, though I had been dropped off at Railways at around 11.00am. How can one get to know this concrete jungle without getting lost? I digress again.

After getting my letter of admission and seeing I had been called to do law, I prayed. I cursed. I was confused. This is not what I wanted. I inquired of my sister. I told her the way I didn’t want to do this thing…it had stopped being a course to being a thing. Her advice? Pray more. Because of my belief in Christ I prayed, Lord if this is the path you are calling me into, let me excel in it. I wish I knew then that even with that resolve, I still had to put in extra hours of reading. This was not just any course. This was law. Let me add laaaawww! They say that if you think love is complicated, let law books be thrown in your face then we talk.

I don’t really know what happened but, I flunked my first year. You can imagine, my desire to run back to what I loved doing. Engineering! I applied for a course transfer at my second year. I was willing to let go of that one year that had passed. God had other plans. The engineering program for the year I wanted to join was full. So here I was stuck with this law that I quite did not know the ropes of. Again, I flunked my second year.

I was a good student, but now I had become a poor student. You can imagine the discouragement. Luckily for me, I never go down without a fight. When the opportunity to understand this law presented itself, I clutched at it. I worked at one of the medium size law firms in Nairobi. For sure, I don’t know what my boss saw in me to take me up as a student. In my stay at the firm, I began falling in love with litigation. I began understanding the nitty gritties of the law. As my colleagues learnt all they could in school, I learnt all I could in practice. My passion for law began there. I wanted to win cases. I wanted to work really hard as I saw my boss doing. I wanted to be better than him if possible. So I went hard at my work and at my books. I lie. I was so tired after work that I only managed to gloss over my books.

Well I had better judgment of waking in the morning and reading and so I graduated to an average student then to slightly good student. Well unlike High School education where all that matters is your final exam, here at the University all your grades from your first year to your fourth year determine your final grade. So in trying to redeem myself, I managed to score a Second Class Honours, Lower Division. I was heart-broken, but I knew I had fooled myself that I had one advantage over the rest. Experience! Your grade really does matter.

In my soldering on, I knew where the rubber would meet the road. Kenya School of Law. I was great again. My years of experience gave me the opportunity to understand the crux of that school. From being a B student, I settled at A with the exception of one unit which I had to redo. But even in redoing it, I still remained an A student. When Maroncha wrote about flunking, I knew the ship very well. The turbulence waters of Kenya School of Law have the ability of humbling you. Whatever ego you thought you had becomes a door mat.

I have never been happier with myself than when I was finally done with the examinations of Kenya School of Law. Too bad, when you get your final transcript, it doesn’t show the grades that one attained in the different units. If the grades were placed on the transcript, that would be my ticket to every job interview. I would rely on those grades as the deer relies on water.

Finally after passing all my exams, came the period I call “waiting”. The temptation to masquerade bedeviled me. I felt I was ready to practice. The seven years I had waited to be an advocate was enough to allow me to masquerade. Surely even the Magistrates and the Judges who have seen me requesting bored and grief-stricken looking advocates to hold brief for my boss, may now conclude that I have been admitted. Wrong!

This one time in some local court, the matter that I had come for, the file had disappeared at the registry. I walked into the chambers and requested the magistrate to have the same reconstructed. For all I know, this was chambers, the magistrate sits in open court. It’s not bad seeking help from the magistrate. The D.P.P could hear none of it! When was I admitted to have a right to speak to a judicial officer?

I fool you not, I almost soiled my pants. I saw all those years of waiting to be an advocate going down the drain. Plan, pretend you are very sick. Actually I developed a stomach ache because of the butterflies. I found an advocate, paid him a K to hold brief and kept as far away as possible from that court. Maybe, now that I am admitted, I will go waving my PC at the D.P.P at this local court. That would be fun. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t really care now.

Once I was through, I swore, never, never, never shall I try address any magistrate, even if it’s a matter not related to any of our files, until I am admitted. But it was difficult, seeing as some lawyers are so reluctant to hold brief. Believe you me, I had to seek Holy intervention anytime I went to court to request a senior advocate to hold brief for my boss. I met them all, the angry, the money lovers, the happy, the scared ones. I met them all. This requesting someone to hold brief is no mean fete. We all need an applause if we got through this.

So the day is nay, and it has reached. Has the journey been easy? Let’s just say, the grace is sufficient. There are days I wanted to do a trajectory down-hill or have a poisonous snake bite me, or be knocked down by a motor-vehicle to alleviate the faults and consequences of youthful passion, for it is during these years that the said passions gripped my heart and mind. There are days however, I wanted to praise all night and thank God for the far he has brought me. For me, the latter were we more than the former. But here I am, thanking God. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

As to what happens from this day, prayer and fasting shall do to answer the question. A congratulation to my fellow advocates who were admitted on the 21st March, 2017. Whatever your journey, you have achieved the goal. As my boss says, once you have worked hard enough, success will become more of a right for your taking. Success is waiting for us.

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