(Continued from But Deliver Us from Evil I)
The Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Jahazi Group is a flamboyant lawyer known as Ronald. He is well known in the country because he is very active on social media, and has a knack for controversy. He is known to be quite well-to-do, and has three homes. His main home is in Karen, Nairobi. He also has a mansion in his rural home in Abothuguchi in Meru County, where he also has a poultry farm that he likes to flaunt. He calls his rural home his “weekend home” because that is where he spends almost all his weekends, and even hosts friends there every now and then. He is a lay leader in the local Methodist Church. Finally, he has a beach house in Malindi that is his holiday home.
Ronald runs a successful law firm in the city. His main office is in Parklands on a building named after his father. M’Nyiri House has four floors but the firm only uses the first and second floors. The ground and third floors are rented out. Ronald bought a piece of land with a bungalow from an Indian family, brought the house down and built this office. He also owns the six-floor Ronald’s Plaza in Meru town, where his law firm’s branch occupies one half of the first floor. The rest of the building is leased out. The two buildings are managed under another of Ronald’s companies, M’Nyiri Properties Ltd. The law firm pays rent to M’Nyiri Properties just like the other tenants. Ronald’s firm has two other branches, one in Nakuru and another in Mombasa, but these offices are leased from other people.
Ronald has sixty lawyers working for him, and thirty-five of them are in Nairobi. Seven lawyers are in Meru, eight in Nakuru and ten in Mombasa. The lawyers are supported by an army of secretaries, clerks, drivers, process servers, cleaners, drivers and security guards.
Ronald is regarded as a top lawyer, even though he hardly does any legal work. He likes to post pictures of his luxurious office, but he hardly does any work in that office. Most of his work is done in hotels, golf clubs and other social places where rich individuals meet. His job in his firm is to get clients, but the actual legal work is done by the bright minds in his office, led by a man called Julius. Julius has been working for Ronald for twenty years now, and is really the legal and administrative mind driving the firm. Over the years, Ronald promoted him from being a pupil, to an Associate, then Senior Associate, Partner and finally Managing Partner.
Julius is a great administrator, which is why Ronald made him the Managing Partner of the firm. Ever since he took up the position, he has created a proper administrative structure at the firm that has increased efficiency and productivity. He even created a hierarchy for the lawyers, after consulting Ronald, that ensured that the top performing lawyers get recognition through promotions. The firm now has Associates, Senior Associates, Principal Associates and Heads of Stations. The Heads of Stations are the senior Advocates leading the branches. This structure has greatly reduced the turnover at the firm. The firm now operates like a proper corporate institution.
Ronald is more of a deal-maker than a lawyer. He knows how to network and to get high-net individuals in his corner. He is a charming man with a witty tongue and that endears many people to him. But beneath the charming façade is a ruthless streak that that is part of the reason he found financial success. Ronald is not afraid to go to the trenches for his clients, and he expects his employees to do the same.
That is why he is seated in Julius’ office. He is afraid that he may have made a mistake by threatening Margaret earlier, and he wants his right-hand man to go and make amends but still make it clear that she cannot leave.
“I need you to do something for me, Julius. I need you to talk to Margaret.”
“The CEO of Jahazi?”
Julius is puzzled. As the Managing Partner of the firm, he gets to know if there is a problem with any of the firm’s major clients. This means that if there was a problem at Jahazi, Margaret or her Legal Manager would have called him way before Ronald got involved. As the Chairman of the company, Ronald mostly deals with the shareholders and other directors, and Margaret only speaks to him about matters that need board attention. Operational legal issues are Julius’s docket as the external lawyer of the company.
Ronald looks uncomfortable, which is very uncharacteristic of him. He is usually unruffled, even in the midst of storms.
“Is there a problem?”
Ronald stares vacantly out of the window and remains silent for almost five minutes before responding.
“Yes. She came to me today threatening to resign from the company.”
“But she only got appointed the other day.”
“That is correct. That is one of the reasons we cannot allow her to leave. It will create a very negative image for the Group. We don’t want that. You know perception is everything in the corporate world. Something like this might shake the confidence of the company’s suppliers and other stakeholders and affect the Group’s profitability. It will be a dent on the brand.”
Julius can sense that he is not being told the truth. But he also knows that if there is some shady aspect of this tale, Ronald will not tell him. Which means he will be flying blind when he goes to see the lady. Because he will go; he cannot defy his boss.
Ronald likes to say that he is the one who mentored Julius, but the truth is that Julius was mentored by the succession of sharp lawyers who worked for Ronald before he came to the scene. It helped that Julius himself is a sharp lawyer, and is able to grasp concepts and processes quickly. Over the years, he has become Ronald’s trusted right hand man, which is he gave him the exulted “Partner” title, even though he remains a salaried employee.
Many of Ronald’s past senior employees did not stick for long because they wanted partnership in the firm, and Ronald has always wanted to retain full control of his firm. That is why the firm is still a sole proprietorship to date. Julius is the first and only employee to be made partner, but even then he remains a salaried employee just like the associates he supervises. But he has no problem with that because Ronald pays him more money than he thinks he can get elsewhere.
From his salary alone, Ronald has over the last twenty years built an impressive investment portfolio that would ensure he remains comfortable even if he lost his job suddenly. He also has a home in Limuru, where he lives with his two daughters. His wife died five years ago. He married young, and so his daughters are both in college. His first daughter was actually born before he and her mother got married; they were lovers at the university.
Julius knows that if he were to be a partner in any other law firm, he would be constantly under pressure to get clients and to follow up on payments. But no such pressure exists at Mwenda M’Nyiri & Co. Advocates because Ronald Mwenda M’Nyiri finds clients and gets them to pay. He only demands that Julius ensures that the work is done to the highest professional standards. That is not too hard for Julius to do because he is a sharp lawyer, and Ronald allows him to pay the staff well, which enables the firm to attract the brightest minds in the legal profession. This, in turn, allows the firm to charge premium for its services. It is always a win for Ronald.
Julius’ spot his prestigious. He has the title ‘Partner’, and nobody except Ronald knows that he is an employee like everyone else. He has a large corner office on the second floor of M’Nyiri House in Parklands’, directly above Ronald’s. He is a member of Parklands Sports Club, his daughters are in top universities and he is generally able to enjoy the comforts of life.
As the Managing Partner of Mwenda M’Nyiri & Co. Advocates, a large firm with sixty Advocates working in four offices, Julius sits on a perch that many lawyers envy. His salary is bigger than what many if not all of small and medium sized law firms take home. The firm has prestigious corporate clients, the largest of them being Jahazi Group.
So no, he would not rock the boat by defying his boss. Besides, he likes Margaret. He has met her many times in recent years, ever since her days at BAT, which is also one of the firm’s clients. Margaret is beautiful, intelligent and charming. She is also single, and Julius has for months now been harboring romantic feelings for her. So yes, anything that might give him an excuse to see her is welcome.
“What reason did she give for wanting to resign?”
“I think the pressure is getting too much for her.”
“But she has been in the C-Suite for years. I would think she knew what she was getting herself into.”
“Yeah. I thought so too. But Jahazi is larger than all the other companies she has worked in, and the dynamics are more complicated. Maybe she is having a culture shock. But I still have a lot of confidence in her. She just needs someone to reassure that she is equal to the task. I know you guys are friends, that is why I thought to ask you to talk to her this evening.”
“Yes. It is important that we get her back to the right frame of mind as quickly as possible.”
“What if she has already made plans for her evening and is not able to meet me tonight?”
“Insist. You have to ensure that you meet her tonight. In fact, just call her right now.”
This is getting even more weird for Julius. He is now absolutely sure that the story he has been told about the pressure getting to Margaret is hogwash. There is something else going on, something that Ronald isn’t willing to tell him for one reason or another. One reason actually: it has to be something shady.
He picks his phone and calls Margaret. She picks up on the first ring.
“Why am I not surprised? Chairman has asked you to call me, isn’t?”
“Good afternoon to you too, Maggie. I am well, thanks for asking.”
“Your charm is not going to work this time, Julius. Tell Chairman I said that.”
“Come on. You are not even going to ask me where I got my very beautiful silk tie that I am wearing today?”
“I have not seen your tie, Julius. So no, I am not going to ask.”
“That is precisely why I was calling you. I wanted to see you tonight so that you can see it and ask me.”
“Weak attempt. Tell Chairman I said no.”
“Don’t be like that. At least give me a chance to see your pretty face. I have been looking for an excuse to take you out for dinner, but I couldn’t get one. Now that Chairman has given me an excuse, don’t turn me down.”
Margaret does not respond, and Julius suddenly wonders whether he has taken the flirting too far. Up to this point, his relationship to Margaret has been professional. Cordial and warm, but professional. There has been some lighthearted banter in the past, but no flirting.
“So you admit that he sent you to me?”
“Yes. But it is also true that I desperately wanted to see you.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I like you…as a woman. Please just have dinner with me.”
Julius holds his breath, waiting for her to tell him off.
“Okay, but on one condition.”
“We will not talk about my resignation.”
“I have to report to Chairman so that might be difficult. I have to convince him that I did my part. But I can promise not to dwell on it too much.”
“Okay. But I will only entertain it for thirty minutes. If you push it beyond that I will walk away.”
“Fair enough. See you at 7.30 at Raddison Blu.”
Julius hangs up and turns to the smiling Ronald.
“Thanks Julius. One piece of advice though.”
“Don’t flirt too much with her. She is off limits.”
“Why? She is single and I am widowed.”
“Muthatu is interested in her, so tread carefully. That man is dangerous, and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you if he thinks you are messing around with his woman.”
Julius is stunned. Muthatu is a reclusive billionaire, and the largest shareholder of Jahazi Group. Julius suddenly wonders whether by being sent to see Margaret tonight he is being dragged into something way above his league. Something that might leave him dead. He has the uneasy feeling that he is, but unfortunately he cannot back out.
(To be continued on Wednesday.)
Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/telephone-mobile-call-samsung-586266/
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