Young Lawyers Col­umn

The lit­tle things that count

Daily Trust - - LAW REPORT - By DanieL Bu­lus­son Esq

By virtue of Or­der 32 Rule 2 of the Kaduna State High Court (civil Pro­ce­dure) Rules 2007: a writ­ten ad­dress shall con­tain the claim or ap­pli­ca­tion on which the ad­dress is based, a brief state­ment of the facts with ref­er­ence to the ex­hibit at­tached to the ap­pli­ca­tion or ten­dered at trial, the is­sue aris­ing for de­ter­mi­na­tion and a suc­cinct state­ment of ar­gu­ment on each is­sue in­cor­po­rat­ing the pur­port of the au­thor­i­ties re­ferred to to­gether with full ci­ta­tion of each such author­ity.

A coun­sel’s writ­ten ad­dress depend­ing on how con­cise and crisp, ought to point the judge in the right di­rec­tion of ar­riv­ing at the just de­ter­mi­na­tion of the case, as a se­nior col­league once rightly said to me “a writ­ten ad­dress would only be dif­fi­cult if you know you have a bad case”. The fo­cus of this dis­cuss are the lit­tle things that count when pre­par­ing a fi­nal ad­dress, but taken for granted dur­ing the course of trial by most young lawyers.

Re­search has shown that the brain is most ac­tive to cur­rent hap­pen­ings, and re­quires time depend­ing on the mem­ory to rec­ol­lect past events. In the le­gal pro­fes­sion, a lot of ac­tiv­i­ties take place dur­ing trial that most young lawyers fail to see the im­por­tance of putting into writ­ing un­til such things come to hunt them dur­ing the prepa­ra­tion of a fi­nal writ­ten ad­dress.

Ma­jor­ity of young lawyers go to court to have their ap­pear­ance an­nounced, watch pro­ceed­ings and leave when the case is done, be­liev­ing that what went on in court is stored in their mem­ory. No doubt it is stored in the mem­ory, but how can one be sure that at the time of writ­ing the fi­nal writ­ten ad­dress, ev­ery minute de­tail that tran­spired in court while the case was go­ing on would au­to­mat­i­cally come to the young lawyer’s fin­ger tips when he is in dire need of the facts.

With the un­for­tu­nate cir­cum­stance of cases stretch­ing be­yond two {2} – three {3} years in the Nige­rian Le­gal Sys­tem, some­times even far longer, cou­pled with the fact that it is most prob­a­ble that a coun­sel who be­gins a case might not be the same coun­sel to con­clude the case, it then be­comes im­per­a­tive to take down notes on pro­ceed­ings dur­ing trial in court.

En­dorse­ments on a case file is an­other lit­tle thing that counts, it helps keep a coun­sel up­dated on what to ex­pect on the next ad­journed date, how­ever, en­dorse­ments is a sum­mary of what tran­spired and not a de­tailed de­scrip­tion of what truly tran­spired. A young lawyer should en­sure that ev­ery trial he at­tends he has a sep­a­rate sheet of paper to take down ev­ery­thing that tran­spired in court, rang­ing from par­ties in court, date of the pro­ceed­ing, busi­ness of the day, ap­pli­ca­tions made by coun­sel and ob­jec­tions if any, the rul­ing of the hon­ourable court if any was made, and where wit­nesses are called to tes­tify the ex­am­i­na­tion- in-chief, cross ex­am­i­na­tion and re-ex­am­i­na­tion should be noted.

It might look stress­ful, tir­ing or bor­ing to the ex­tent that one might not even see the rel­e­vance of tak­ing down notes of pro­ceed­ings in court, how­ever when pre­par­ing fi­nal ad­dress, coun­sel would need to bring out most of these facts to guide the court and where the op­pos­ing coun­sel has more facts at his dis­posal than you do, he would be in a bet­ter po­si­tion to point the court in the di­rec­tion of his case.

Though the courts have their record and are bound by it, and coun­sel are at lib­erty to ap­ply for the records when the time comes to pre­pare the fi­nal writ­ten ad­dress, coun­sel es­pe­cially young lawyers would save them­selves a lot of time from their twenty one (21) or four­teen (14) days depend­ing on the party they rep­re­sent, if the pro­ceed­ings were al­ready in the case file.

The case of the plain­tiff and the de­fen­dant comes to bear fully in the fi­nal writ­ten ad­dress. Truth be told, the time al­lo­cated by statutes is not al­ways enough for young coun­sels to com­plete the writ­ten ad­dress be­fore hand­ing over to the Prin­ci­pal Part­ner for edit­ing and cor­rec­tion, which is why pro­ceed­ings taken down would go a long way in help­ing the young lawyer ar­range his case.

Young wigs should not be lax to the ex­tent of not tak­ing notes in court, at the point of trial it may not look im­por­tant, but at the stage of pre­par­ing fi­nal ad­dresses, it would go a long way in help­ing the young wig.

Do send your com­ments, ob­ser­va­tion and rec­om­men­da­tion to daniel­bu­lus­son@gmail.com

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