May 8, 2018

Issue For Determination | Kema Ufelle-Smith

Good morning Mr. Tobi, kindly accept my most sincere apologies for being unable to secure the eventual satisfaction of your creditor’s pecuniary liabilities towards you. It was indeed a jostle for which intricate and extensive-cum-holistic research was expended, and for which no small degree of persuasive legal gymnastics and histrionics were employed towards assuaging the heart of His Lordship in your favour.

You know my problem with you, Barrister Segun? You try to make your points with an unnecessary wide choice of words, and at the end of the day, I never understand what you are saying. I always require the help of an interpreter whenever you draft an agreement for me, and in this case, I still don’t know if you are telling me that you won or lost my case.

Oh well, Mr. Tobi, your inability to comprehend these rudimentary elucidations, is no fault of mine. Your worrisome lack of comprehension, despite my spirited attempts at descending to your level, is a matter to be settled between you and your English teachers. On my part, it would be tantamount to being sucked into the vortex of incompetence to cascade to such depths as to communicate on a banal and pedestrian level. Such asinine communication is reserved for peasants, and must never be heard among the ranks of the learned. Do you not know that the hallmark of an educated mind is its ability to unearth the hidden meanings and nuances in an obscure speech?

Sometimes I wonder if you actually mean some of the things you say. Since when has communication turned into a fine art, which will require deeper interpretations? Isn’t communication simply for the purpose of conveying a simple message to another person anymore? You insult me and call me pedestrian because I use simple words, but what you don’t know is that it takes an intelligent mind to speak with simplicity. Not only is your intelligence revealed in your simplicity of language, but so also is your wisdom. This is because it takes a wise man to use words that will be understood by the greater number of people. Of what use will it be to speak without being understood? It is like taking a bath without the intention of being clean, or telling a joke without planning to be funny.

Again, I will pardon your ignorance on issues of this stripe. Your brazen disregard for the elevated art of fine conversation is self-evident, and I wish to continue this conversation no further.

No way, Barrister Segun! You cannot start a fire and then run away. I have ignored you all this while, but we must get to the root of this thing today. Just last week, I asked you to draft an agreement for me. It was a simple agreement I reached with my business partner, but we wanted to make it binding. When we asked you to put it into writing, we couldn’t even tell what it was that we were signing anymore – we just had to rely on the trust we had for you. Why will you write something for my own benefit, and then I cannot understand its content? I mean, it only makes sense that I understand the agreement that I am signing, doesn’t it?

You seem to have a lot of time on your hands today, Mr. Tobi. Unfortunately, I have higher-ranking ordeals and herculean tasks that require my timeous intervention. However, whilst I resist the temptation to ignore your retorts, which, by the way, are strikingly similar to those of an intellectually-vacuous man, I will make it poignantly clear that a learned and lettered man is of a rare ilk. His is an elevated vocation, and his frock is sewn by a different fabric. He has a solemn obligation to the law, and nowhere in such an obligation is he bound to ensure the comprehension of his clients. His sworn duty is to protect the law, and in what better way can the law be preserved but in its strict, obscurantist and non-pedestrian form? If you seek a conversation for the sake of leisure, there is an abundance of motor-park simpletons waiting to indulge you, but my time, Mr. Tobi, is valuable.

You seem to throw insults quite freely, Barrister Segun. All I wanted was a fair explanation on why your words are always so complex, and not an afternoon shower of abuses. It seems that when you are backed into a corner, you resort to verbal attacks. You say your duty is to protect the law, but I am the one paying for the service. If it is the law you are serving, then why isn’t the law paying you to draft the agreement? The service culture is obviously lacking in your trade, and the earlier you treat me like I matter, the better for your continued survival. When you defend me, I reserve the right to understand in an intelligible form, how I am being defended, and I wonder why this is so hard for you to understand.

You speak as though you have never been at the mercy of a doctor. When he pens down his prescriptions, do you understand his handwriting? No. Yet I am the hapless victim of your ill-considered vituperations. I have had enough of this conversation. And if this was done in a bid to avoid paying me my legal fees, then you must be joking. Do you not know that a legal practitioner unwittingly subscribes to an unwritten vow to preserve the mystique and inherent legalese of legal communication?

Perhaps this is true. However, Barr. Segun, have you considered that the use of simple language may actually promote efficiency and speed in legal drafting?

(Raucous laughter) Efficiency and speed, you say? What would an intellectual Lilliputian like yourself know about legal drafting? Ordinarily, I would not have dignified such puerile rantings with a response, but I consider it my duty to educate simpletons such as yourself. Do you not know that the law is a complex linguistic leviathan which requires arduous study to master? Surely, even you must know that many words and phrases employed in legislations and agreements have judicially-defined meanings, which would be lost in the miasma of simplistic transliterations? For instance, do you know what it means to ‘execute’ a thing in law?

Of course! It means to kill it.

There you go! A first-rate simpleton you are, my dear friend. To execute simply means to sign a document. I have had enough of this insipid and inane conversation. Off I go to attend to more pressing engagements. You will do well to remit my fees into the bank account I have already furnished as soon as is practicable and without undue delay.

My dear reader, please judge between Barrister Segun and I. Do you think lawyers should tone down on their complex use of language, or should it be retained for the preservation of the customs of the profession?

Kema is a business lawyer, Founding Partner of Capitalfield Attorneys, and member of the World Economic Forum.