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Stay-at-Home Lawyers and COVID-19

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By Earl Alright

I have been prepared for COVID-19 since 2005/2006. Yes, I was a 200 level Law Student of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma when I decided I wanted to be a work-from-home Dad. It wasn’t fashionable then (and neither is it fashionable now). There is still so much attack on full-time house wives, so imagine the apathy I face for being a man who stays at home when his wife always goes out.

When I made a decision to work from home, all the major social media there was were Yahoo Messenger and My Space. I wasn’t on Facebook and Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram didn’t exist. Interestingly, I didn’t even have a phone when I made this decision. I had read about stay-at-home dads on Ebony Magazine and knew the lifestyle suited me most than being the regular 8am to 5pm white collar worker.

I was Called to Bar at 24 but didn’t start working from home until I was 26. No, I didn’t have an office in the house where I attended to clients when I started. I work with clients through emails, social media and phone calls. I went out to meet with some and later, as it is today, I struck a deal with an office for a room with which to meet with clients whenever the need arises. I either deliver documents in person or via courier or drop them in my office for pickup. Although I chat with clients via social media and phone calls, I ensure I receive the final instructions via email and I always remember to send an invoice too. When clients insist of meeting me in person, I charge them my Consultation fees and give them a physical appointment in my office. I have noticed that many clients who insist on seeing me in person usually prefer to talk with me through other means when they receive my consultation fees details.

I am sure before COVID-19, you would have thought I wasn’t a serious lawyer who is always at home without a shirt and maybe in his boxers. But the shut-down of Italy and many public places in other countries is clear evidence that we all need to take advantage of the internet and start working from home.

Truth be told, the clients that control our economy as lawyers really don’t like going to courts. Many opt for e-documents and do not even have the time to visit our offices. It is the low paying, and very stressful clients that are always wanting to come to your office every day, bringing information that they could have ordinarily send via SMS.

COVID-19 is telling us that we need to reconsider our position on being a “full-time house wife/husband”. Yes, I am proud and grateful to God that my profit at the end of every month is in 6 digits and I don’t have to suffocate myself inside suit and tie just to be a lawyer. In fact, my work patterns allows me also to support my wife in her newly started creche without plenty stress.

I spend less on transport, office management, laundry and many other work and office things than many other lawyers. I do not worry about kidnapping, road accidents, Police and SARS brutality and other communicable diseases like COVID-19 which many other lawyers are exposed to. in reality, if Nigeria is shut down today, it wouldn’t affect or change how I work: I have been prepared for COVID-19 for more than 10 years. In case you doubt, I still do a few litigation cases. Yes, I planned stopping litigation at age 30, this is age 32 and Multi-Door Court Houses are making my dream come true. Soon, when any of my matters require litigation, I would transfer it to another law firm (just like many seniors do).

Now, start thinking: how much has a physical office outside your house brought you? How many passers by have worked in to ask for a lawyer and what kind of brief did they bring? Do you even charge any consultation fees for attending to physical clients? So tell me what benefits you are actually enjoying from working in your office which I am not enjoying by working from home? And in any case you didn’t know, there are offices that are furnished and ready for hire per the hour/day in many cities where you can meet with clients. Also take note that my 9 years post call experience shows that the real big clients never have the time to come to a physical office.

Always remember that this “law na business.”

Earl Alright is a partner at Graceville Chambers, Ibadan and a Sex Counsellor with Alright’s Passion Counsellors Association. He can be reached via Whatsapp 08125086798 or by email earlalright@yahoo.com

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