They are called goons, they behave like hoodlums, they are men filled with missionary zeal to protect law and help justice prevail. They are Men and Women in Black. They are lawyers.
What does a man wearing a black coat, white shirt, black tie, and black pants look like? Well, a man dressed as such looks like a penguin. But since, we’ve been conditioned by exposure and are used to seeing black-and-white clad men around quite often, we mistake them imitators of penguins for serious, law-abiding, respectable lawyers. And of late, them fun-loving, playful human penguins have lost their marbles.
In theory, at least, we see them lawyers, at times more proud than Lucifer himself, in their professions’ signature attire and going to fight the battles between good and evil in courtrooms. Many of them equate their uniform with an armour, necessary to shield themselves and their clients in a perennial war where one has to contend and overcome lost causes, ubiquitous pressure, and endless trials and tribulations, day in, day out.
What it feels to be one of them
I still remember the not-so-good, neither-downright-bad old days when I used to dress like a penguin every morning. Fresh out of law college, I started my apprenticeship at district courts Islamabad. Clean shaved, wearing knock-off Ray Ban aviators bought from a trusted pathan vendor, wearing crisp white shirt, wrinkle-free coat, black pants and sleek black tie, I was all set to conquer the Islamabad katcheri, and then Islamabad High Court and eventually Supreme Court of Pakistan with my unrivalled legal acumen, matchless logical prowess and simply flawless command of English language.
I stopped going to katcheri after two and a half months and my hopes of becoming an ace lawyer dashed.
The whole thing wasn’t working out as I was stuck in a rut. I was learning nothing and barely running from pillar to post, seeking adjournments, holding mammoth files, trying my best to make sense of all the nonsense that was around and in my free time (which was most of the time) I was spending time sipping tea in Bar room with Cheema sahab, Virk sahab, Larhkaa Sahab, Raja sahab, Warraich sahab, Dhanothar sahab, Sardar sahab, Manther sahab or some other fellow black coat who boasted of a unique surname.
And then I had a lightbulb moment.
Why not migrate from Islamabad to Lahore and start practising with my uncle at the inimitable, historic Lahore High Court.
The year was 2014. The months were October, November. The city was Lahore. The location was High Court and Aiwan-e-Adal ( where lower courts are located). The campaign for elections of Punjab Bar Council was in full swing, thousands of young and old lawyers were busy canvassing for the dozens of candidates, brochures were distributed with sheer force and abandon, almost every black coat had a badge of one or the other candidate, the atmosphere was charged with emotions, the slogans were deafening and the whole thing had an ominous feel of a battleground.
For those of you who haven’t heard of what slogans in bar election sound like, following are couple of examples:
Jeet payala peevay Gondal. Jeevay Gondal, Jeevay Gondal. (May Gondal become successful. Long live Gondal, Long Live Gondal)
Yeh joo Kaala coat hai, Rai tera vote hai. (This black coat that you see, Rai it is your vote)
Rajay teri Jeet shala. InshaAllah, InshaAllah. (Raja Ji, by the grace of God, you’ll be successful)
We-I and dozens of other lawyers, mostly young- were campaigning like men and ladies possessed. From 8 in the morning till late night, the canvassing continued. It was fun, sweat, slogans, free meals, sprained ankles and meaning for us idle folks in a universe we recently arrived in..
In February, 2015, my ‘active’ penguin days came to an end. I moved back to Islamabad.
The Goings-On in Lawyer-verse
Campaigns, elections, strikes, and protests; these events test the grit and loyalty of an advocate. The regularity and rabid frequency of the aforementioned happenings punches a young lawyer in the gut within first few weeks of practice. He finds himself part of an array of campaigns in succession. Winners barely stop celebrating their success that campaigns for next election kick start. The regular strikes and protests keeps one mindful of the fact that Justice for alive can be delayed a day or two but first they need to mourn the injured ego of their colleague.
Add to the above the following and you’ll have a more clear vision of the mad, mad, mad world lawyers live in. A volatile clientele, cut throat competition in lower courts, hegemony of senior, well-established lawyers, class divide, impact of social connections and standing in the society, and a plethora of other reasons make it tough for a budding lawyer to grow and an established lawyer to survive.
Bar and bench, if things go well, see eye to eye in most cases. Every time, when things go south, there are casualties. This time around, their Lordships decided to teach lawyer leadership a lesson in ethics. Well, the pupils were in no mood for a lecture and the pedagogue went into overdrive. The stick of contempt of court failed to bring home the bacon, and the few, dignified, robed and trained Lordships decided to not put up with the antics and acrobatics of the lawyers.