On 13th December 2019.
Your Lordship Chief Justice of the United Republic of Tanzania, Prof. Ibrahim Hamisi Juma,
Honorable Justices of Appeal,
Hon. Principal Judge, Dr. Eliezer Mbuki Feleshi,
Hon. Retired Judges,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I congratulate you all on your admission to the Bar as Advocates of the High Court of Tanzania. I know it has been a long journey for all of you and I laud you for the many years of unwavering effort to qualify as advocates.
I would also like to extend a very warm welcome to your families and loved ones as they share in this joyous occasion with you. Indeed, I am sure that your achievements would not have been possible without their love, support and encouragement.
This, of course, is just a first milestone event. It marks both an end and a beginning of more or less a similar drill: Many years of dedicated study, hard work, and perseverance to become an advocate I repeat an advocate are finally over. What await you, however, are many years of hard work, real legal disputes, court battles, and clients to advise and disputes to mediate and settle. These will require you to put into action your knowledge, wit, intellect, energy, and stamina. Again it is time now to merge your legal knowledge with practice as the old adage goes practice makes better. Again you will be called upon to continue sharpening your knowledge through more studying and in the process what in the past you did not understand will make sense and you will be able to put them into practice. I can assure you a good lawyer is the one never stops studying and practicing what he or she has studied/learned.
This Call to the Bar ceremony is full of significance. It means that you will henceforth be called advocates. This designation is the most significant one, and it is permanent. It does not end when you retire; it does not end when, for any reason, you cease to practice save when you are permanently disbarred and removed from the Roll of Advocates.
If your experience in law school and during the pupillage period was typical at all, you have likely discovered by now that you couldn’t have endured the ordeal, or endured it as well, without the loving support of your parents, families, and close friends. Many of them have joined you here today; I salute them all for a job well done.
Today, I would like to talk to you about “What it Means to be a Lawyer” so that you are better prepared for challenges that come with your chosen profession.
You probably will be surprised that our profession is not always very much loved. We bear the brunt of many nasty jokes, and often it sounds as if we are enemies of society, rather than friends of the people we serve.
This is not new. Canadian lawyer Allan C. Hutchinson, in his book Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, had this to say:
“The legal profession has never been much loved. From Plato through Shakespeare and Charles Dickens to Tom Wolfe, literature attests eloquently to its impugned status. As much envied as reviled, the reputation and prestige of lawyers are now considered by many to be at an all-time low. Law’s image as a noble and honorable profession is in tatters.”
Many societies, ours included, tend to view lawyers as elite professionals who are more interested in their own bank accounts than the public good. I do not believe this to be true, but what people believe remains important.
But what does it mean to be a lawyer?
First, you must recognize that to practice law is not a right, but a privilege. The privilege of calling yourself a lawyer comes with many perquisites. You will be treated with respect and deference not only by your clients but also by the public generally. You will be recognized as an officer of the court when you appear in courtrooms. You will have the distinction of being gowned, as you are today, whenever you appear in an open court on behalf of a party. The gown is itself a special distinction, a manifestation of dignity. You will have the pleasure and satisfaction of being referred to as “counsel” by judges and opposing lawyers.
However, along with the pleasures and privileges of practice, these come with many responsibilities and potential pitfalls. Chief among these responsibilities is the duty to serve the public ethically, diligently, and competently. A lawyer without high ethical standards is an empty vessel and a danger to the society.
Were it not for the strict ethical code by which lawyers are required to conduct themselves, they would have no right to command a monopoly over the services they render in the practice of law. Nor would they enjoy the privilege of self- regulation.
Law is a learned and noble profession. So, as you join it starting today, you do so on the solemn undertaking that you will act in accordance with the ethical code undergirding your distinguished office, which is to say that you will act professionally, diligently, and ethically.
In my view, anyone who enters the profession of law just so that they may make some good money enters it for the wrong reason and is bound ultimately to be unfulfilled. I am not saying it’s wrong to make money out of your profession. Indeed, you should make a good living in the practice of law, but if that is your only goal, then far more deeply satisfying ones i.e. professional excellence, public service, and inner peace amongst many will elude you.
When you practice law in a country like ours, you have many opportunities to do well beyond your activities in the courtroom. Let me give you a few obvious ones that you should look out for:
- Speak for the voiceless, or those who are oppressed by their circumstances or are victims of historical injustices. Every community has a good number of such people crying out for someone to champion their rights. As it is part of vision of Tanganyika Law Society that access to justice for all is maintained thus each one of you has a duty to provide legal aid and represent indigent people;
- Always be on the lookout for instances of human rights abuses, and be fearless in defending the victims. More than any other professionals, lawyers have historically been champions of human rights and good governance and we need you to keep this tradition;
- Safeguard the Constitution of Tanzania. Article 26 (1) and (2) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania enjoins us to protect the constitutionalism and rule of law. Ours is a republic, meaning, we have a limited government for which the powers of the arms of the state are clearly prescribed and al people including all government leaders without exception are under and not above the law. As lawyers, you must and courageously confront all acts that violate our constitutional order. If you prevaricate, find excuses, or you’re intimidated to the bones, then you are committing a mortal sin and you will be harshly judged not only by history but also by our maker. In short, we as lawyers must live up to our billing. We exist as lawyers because of the laws of the land, and any threat to the constitutional order leaves us greatly exposed. Outside constitutionalism, we are like fish out of water. Safeguard it with everything you have.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a lawyer, you have a duty to serve the community by protecting the tenets of our legal system. This means at times you may have to defend unpopular clients and speak out against abuses of power. This will not be easy; however, a legal practice sometimes requires great tenacity and courage. There are many occasions where lawyers have shown courage in their work.
You have agreed to uphold the duties to your clients. More importantly, you have accepted a paramount duty to the court. This overriding duty rests on public interest principles: to assist the court to do justice according to law. This obligation applies regardless of whether you practice as a litigator, or if you intend this to be your first and final appearance in court. Our legal system rests on principles that are encapsulated in the rule of law.
I know you have passed many exams to get to this day. This indeed has proven that you have the academic ability to make good lawyers. However, moving forward, life will continue to test you on your practical abilities. As I have pointed out, a successful lawyer requires toiling every day and harnessing a hoard of special skills that do not necessarily come from your college studies.
First among these is Good communication skills.
Lawyers must be orally articulate, have good written communication skills and also be good listeners. In order to argue convincingly in the courtroom before judges and magistrates, good public speaking skills are essential. Lawyers must also be able to write clearly, persuasively and concisely, as they prepare written submissions and produce a lot of legal documents.
But it’s not all about projection. To be able to analyze what clients tell you or follow complex testimony, a lawyer must also have good listening skills.
Second, you need a good sense of judgment. The ability to draw reasonable, logical conclusions or assumptions from limited information is essential for any lawyer.
Three, you need good analytical skills. Both the study and practice of law involve absorbing large quantities of information, then having to distill it into something logical.
Four, good research skills are critical. Being able to carry out online research quickly and effectively is essential in the presentation of your clients’ cases. Preparing legal strategies requires absorbing and comprehending large amounts of information, then distilling it down into something manageable and useful.
Five, you will need superlative people skills. Law is not an abstract practice. Irrespective of how well you turn out academically, at the end of the day lawyers work with people, on behalf of people, and the decisions that are made affect peoples’ lives.
Finally, you will need a great deal of perseverance, even though the Law School has already taught you a good measure of this. In our work environment, many things will come to test your perseverance. Extraneous circumstances will cause a hearing to be adjourned even after you’ve burned the midnight oil in preparation. Your client won’t come through with half the documents you have been discussing all week. Or it will be a case of an endless power blackout that tests your perseverance to the limit.
Whatever the case, you deserve to celebrate this day and feel good about the immense opportunities ahead of you. You are now officers of the court, and you must assist us by ensuring that you uphold the rule of law at all times; you must help justice to prevail at all times, and your rewards will follow, one way or another.
Last but not least, I wish to welcome you to TLS membership. You are our newest members. You’re joining a rapidly expanding bar association with 14 chapters with three more in the offing. We expect you to become active members of TLS who will dedicate themselves to see it become a vibrant Society, a bar association that upholds the rule of law and constitutionalism and independence. For TLS to be independent, its members must be prepared to be the main source of its funding. You should quickly acquaint yourselves with the Tanganyika Law Society Act Cap 307 R.E. 2002 and regulations made thereto and activities are undertaken by TLS.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all success in all your future endeavors as you become fully-fledged members of the Bar today. Hongereni Sana. Thank you and God bless you all.