I was born in an unsung village, deep in the Brong Ahafo Region, the 7th child in a 10 children family. I had routine education in the Jinijini Presbyterian Primary and Middle schools, wrote the Common Etnrance and by a miracle I had admission to Achimota School.
By the Grace of God I ended up seven years later at the Law faculty at Legon but fate brought me into contact with Flt Lt JJ Rawlings and Captain Boakye Gyan. By third year, my mind had been deflected off the law career into one of wanting to become a Major General.
With LLB degree in my pocket, I left Legon on 2nd November1977 to enlist as a cadet officer, went to Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, came back as lieutenant and within six years I had been booted out of the military � my dreams of becoming a Major General and Army Commander dashed on the rocks.
I was a broken man: thirty years old, saddled with a pregnant wife, my military career in ruins, nowhere to stay in Accra, a law graduate but not a lawyer and worse of all, the universities closed down due to strike by students. In the meantime, my mates from Legon- Budzo Lumor, Kofi Aboagye, Ansa Asare, Charles Hayibor�. they were making it big, and I was tearing apart in my soul.
Thanks to God, Tsatu Tsikata, my Jurisprudence lecturer at Legon, helped me to get some job in the Petroleum Department and thanks to Malik Alhassan, who highly encouraged me, I went through the Ghana Law School and on 3rd October 1986, Chief Justice E.N.P Sowah called me to the Bar: I was now a LAWYER!!!
What do I do now?
I continued going to work at GNPC this time talking more confidently as a lawyer, and President of the GNPC Senior Staff Association. The salary was not enough at all, and petty borrowing
here and there had drowned me in a sea of debts. I contacted as many as six senior lawyers to admit me as a pupil in their law chambers, and they all said �no space�.
Fortune struck in a very skewed way.
There was this girl I was trying to follow without success, not even when I told her I was a lawyer, though I was only a law graduate. I met her one night and she said: �Thank God!
Captain, you told me you are a lawyer�. �Yes, of course. I am a lawyer.�
My mother is going to Court tomorrow � can you come to defend her? That night I did not sleep. What will I say in Court? I don�t even know the girl�s mother. I have never spoken in Court � oh God, tomorrow will decide my fate �
Early in the morning, I got ready and went to GNPC, then I sneaked out around 9am and drove to the then CITY COURT, located inside Okaishie Commercial Centre.
As I arrived in the Court premises, I saw the girl who told me: �Captain, you are late. They have finished with my mother�.
Oh my God!!
What do I do now? Going back to the office? Or?
Then wham!! A friend of mine, Nketia came to pull me �Captain, come � there are some traders who have been arrested for selling on the pavement at Railway -they are going to plead guilty, so say something in mitigation ��
Everything happened so fast I almost became confused. List of the traders, everybody paying something small.. .. before I realized I was carrying 3,000 cedis cash in my hands!!! (my salary at GNPC in those days was 600 cedis a month!!)
Reader, I drove to GNPC offices at Black Star Line, Osu, then called some friends to Duncan�s bar and what a party � beer, Guinness and what have you!!!.
From that day, I never looked back: with no senior to guide me but desperate to pay my debts I plunged into private legal practice like how one jumps into a swimming pool to swim or sink- period.
Soon Year One passed, two, three, four and ten years, then on and on, and now today, by the Grace of God, TWENTY FIVE YEARS at the Bar To God be the Glory, TO God be the Glory
What have been my experiences?
Many, and so many that it will require a book to document them.
First of all, the biggest problem is how to charge legal fees. It is a problem most lawyers face, but early in my first year of practice a good conversation I had with Ellis Owusu Fodjour made me to radically change my attitude to fees. He told me there is a false perception that lawyers have money, but the reality is that most clients don�t pay the fees we charge. By the time he was talking to me, on paper, clients owed me hundreds of thousands of cedis, but immediately after that, I wrote all of them off as bad debts.
Ever since, what I have been doing is QUANTUM MERUIT!!! Pay me as we go along -bail, hearing, off and on. Writ of summons, pleadings, directions, hearing � as we go along. If you don�t pay, I don�t come � period. It works like magic.
There are two types of cases- criminal and civil. Criminal cases make a lawyer POPULAR but civil cases make a lawyer RICHER.
A practising lawyer should NEVER say that a case is small- no case is small- before you are aware, the so-called �small case� is up before the Supreme Court. Treat every case with terrible seriousness.
But there are frustrations � especially going to Court outside Accra. Several times I have left my Accra cases to travel deep into the country � Denu High Court, Hohoe High Court, Bolgatanga
High Court, Sekondi High Court � only to be told �Court not sitting today!!!
The solution is to have a network of practising lawyers � so that partners in the provinces can handle cases for us.
It is thrilling to be a lawyer, but there are interesting challenges. Going to Court is a personal service, and if you are sick or incapacitated, sorry, the client will go for another lawyer.
One of the greatest mysteries in legal practice is that any time I do a case pro bono, Almighty God brings me so many benefits that I get confounded. One day, I entered the courtroom at Criminal Appeals Court and the State Attorney said: �Effah, this boy has no lawyer. Help him- use this piece of the law.�
When they called the case, the State Attorney behaved as if he had never met me in life, but all the same I used the law he showed me to defend the applicant, got a massive reduction in sentence, and guess what, next day my picture was on the front page of �Daily Graphic� as the famous defence lawyer!!! To God be the Glory.
One day, I went to Justice Charles Quist�s Court at High Court 21 and there was this applicant from Nsawam Prison who had no lawyer and wanted bail- he had been in prison custody on remand for 10 years and I just cut in and spoke for him -I got bail for him and all the media network carried the story. God is wonderful- He will NEVER shortchange you.
Twenty five years at the Bar -I thank God that I am still alive, going to Court everyday. I have seen lawyers who appeared apparently healthy but who were later reported dead, I have seen some clients who come to my law office and the next news is that they have gone.
How about the bench? Will I like to be a judge?
The answer is no. I can�t stand the strict regime that judges are compelled to go through: apart from attending church and funerals, a judge cannot be moving up and down everywhere like we private law practitioners do � I love my freedom, and the ability to even look at the face of the Chief Justice and say �with the greatest respect, my lord, I submit that the Court had erred!!!!�
Do I have any tit bits for new upcoming lawyers?
Plenty of them, except that time and space will not permit me to document all of them � perhaps, I should be thinking of writing a book!
First of all, NEVER quarrel or show disrespect to a judge. The law is 40% statute and 60% discretionary. Whether you like it or not the judge is KING in the Courtroom, monarch of all:
Your appearance, your decorum, your respect demonstrated practically to the judge can greatly influence a decision favourable to you.
At any rate, if you do your case very well, and make a favourable presentation and the Court rules against you, just say �much obliged� or �very well� and leave the courtroom to file an appeal. In most cases, the client will pay higher money for appellate court- I have experienced it on countless occasions � so, why quarrel with a judge?
Another point is that NEVER quarrel with a colleague lawyer never forget that clients will come and go, but we will always remain at the Bar. Your colleague that you are fighting today with insults and despicable comments may tomorrow be sitting as Circuit Court judge with you appearing before him!!!
Try to be straightforward and let your yes be yes, afterall, a lawyer�s worth is his integrity. In my very first year, senior lawyer J. K. Agyemang told me �young man, try to get genuine money, so that when you are chopping it, you can sleep!!!� Avoid underhand deals because invariably one day you will be caught and the disgrace will be terrible. Be straightforward.
The points are many, but let me just end it with a strong suggestion that TRUST GOD and for everything, give thanks. Don�t envy any lawyer that he is handling this or that brief � you don�t know what brief is waiting for you. Trust God. He will ALWAYS bring you your daily bread.
As I celebrate twenty five years of infinite Grace of Almighty God as a lawyer, I want to salute senior lawyer ODENKE MENSAH � the first lawyer to guide me in the Courtroom. I salute my personal lawyer Stanley Amarteifio � he and I have been on opposite sides in several cases and anytime the case is called, we box like terrible enemies, but after the duel is over, we smile at each other like twins. I salute you, Stanley.
I also salute WAN Adumuah Bossman, the legendary Hortensins of Ghana law � several times I have asked him his legal opinion on knotty issues and he always with a smiling face shows me a way out. George Thompson, Ellis Owusu Fordjor, J K Agyeman � my worthy seniors, I salute you all. What I am today is a reflection of your pieces of advice anecdotes and encouraging comments.
Let me end with the story of policeman Maxwell Awhaitey.
In 1991, Maxwell was a policeman in Obuasi. He was sent to arrest a suspect who was so violent that Maxwell fired at his buttocks. He bled so profusely that he died at the hospital. It turned out that he was the son of the PDC Chairman in Obuasi so workers and revolutionary
forces� rose up in rebellion.
When the IGP heard the matter, he ordered Maxwell to be transferred to Korle Bu Police Station, but PNDC Chairman J.J Rawlings ordered him to be arrested and tried. Maxwell was remanded into James Fort Prison for murder.
It was then that I came into the matter.
I got the High Court to admit him to bail, and two years later we went to Obuasi District Court for committal proceedings. In 1994, the High Court in Kumasi started the trial but it was prolonged until finally in 2000, June, Justice Quaye, now Justice of Appeal, heard the case almost on day-to-day basis.
I will never forget my closing address to the jury, which lasted almost 2 hours, making maximum use of the Police Station Diary, which recorded every aspect of Maxwell�s case- when he was called to be sent for the arrest, the release of a weapon to him � everything.
Maxwell Awhaitey was acquitted and discharged by the jury, and reader, we drove all the way from Kumasi to DORYUMU near Afienya, Tema, and when we got there, oh God, women put their cloths on the streets of Doryumu for me to drive my white BMW on it. They emptied so many bottles of white powder on me that my black suit became totally white, including my innocent law clerk Perry Abbey.
Today, as I write these lines, Maxwell Awhaitey after 10 years interdiction, was restored to his status and is now Chief Inspector at Ashaiman.
I thank God I am a lawyer.
To Him be the Glory. To Him be the Glory. To Him be the Glory.
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