The next time you hire a local lawyer, especially those who have been churned out by the National University of Laziness (NUL) in recent years, get them to take a simple IQ test just to be sure you are hiring a person with an average level of intelligence.
Or if you can’t ascertain their IQ at least you should test them for common sense before you part with your hard-earned money for some scatterbrained lawyer.
Here is an example of a simple puzzle you can give to a lawyer before you hire him: “Mr Lawyer, a man has to get a fox, a chicken, and a sack of corn across Mohokare River. He has a rowboat, and it can only carry him and one other thing. If the fox and the chicken are left together, the fox will eat the chicken. If the chicken and the corn are left together, the chicken will eat the corn. How can the man get all three across the river safely?”
If the lawyer looks troubled, try making the test easier by asking them what is heavier a tonne of feathers or a tonne of stones?
Scrutator has no doubt that many local lawyers will struggle to answer those questions because they are just a pathetic lot.
But before our lawyers engage in their usual juvenile rants, please allow Scrutator to first explain how she reached that sad conclusion.
For years Scrutator has held the legal profession in high esteem. Who can blame Scrutator for that? After all, these are the people who can make a coldblooded murder look like a common assault that just went wrong in court.
She has always thought our government was wasting money by importing advocates from across the border when this country is teeming with qualified lawyers.
Then she started hearing that for all their snobbishness our lawyers were generally ill-trained and unprepared for the rigours of the legal world.
Scrutator was startled because while she has never really thought much of NUL she had not imagined that someone could spend five years there and still come out a scatty.
But Scrutator’s doubt was put to rest when a few months ago she found herself sitting in the public gallery of one of the courtrooms at the High Court.
Justice Tseliso Monapathi was the judge.
After only half an hour in the court Scrutator was left with no iota of doubt that the legal fraternity has gone to the dogs.
To say the general quality of our lawyers is poor will be a gross understatement that does not fully describe the depth to which our legal fraternity has sunk.
Justice Monapathi had a torrid time trying to teach some lawyers basic court procedures. Their lack of attention to detail was appalling and so was their flagrant disregard of basic legal procedures.
Scrutator has never seen the door of a law school but she knows a bungling lawyer when she sees one.
It was such miserable sight watching bearded men and breasted women in those black gowns lynching their reputations with impunity.
What was particularly depressing was the pomp with which they carried themselves even after thoroughly embarrassing themselves in front of the judge and all who were in the court to see.
Even after receiving a tongue-lashing from Justice Monapathi they still walked out of the courtroom with a spring in their step like they had just won a landmark case.
Scrutator was not surprised for that’s what happens when you don’t know that you don’t know a thing about your profession.
In such cases there is always the temptation to think that the title of the job makes up for your lack of knowledge of it.
Some came to court completely unprepared and tried to give some lame excuses in the same mold as the ones a kid gives when caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
Others turned basic court procedure on its head as they jumped from one gaffe to another with a smile on their faces.
Then there are those who fumbled through their papers to check information that they should otherwise have had on their finger tips like dates.
At one point the judge had to remind one young lawyer that his client was actually the plaintiff and not the defendant as he had argued.
His carelessness exposed, the young lawyer hastily apologised and proceeded to ask for a postponement on account that he had forgotten that the hearing was set for that day so he had not prepared.
The irritated judge blasted him.
When it came to arguing points of law it was as clear as a goat’s behind that some lawyers were out of their depth.
But Justice Monapathi seemed unfazed by it all because he is now used to such tomfoolery in his court. In fact he has seen worse things.
Scrutator is sure many judges have watched in horror as lawyers unwittingly help send their clients to the dungeon because they are just inept.
So, how did we arrive here?
How did things become so bad that our courts are now being manned by so many tenderfoots?
Well, a pathetic law school begets half-baked lawyers.
It must be kept in mind that the NUL law school did not suddenly become bad.
If the truth be told, it slowly but surely crawled its way to mediocrity because it took more law undergraduates than it can properly teach. Soon, some streams had more than 200 students.
To understand why this number is colossal it is important to remember that in the 1970s, when NUL was still NUL, an average law class had less than 20 students.
At some point in 1980 NUL decided that quantity and not quality was the way to go in university education (the jury is still out on which dunderhead decided that).
They started filling up the law classes and soon they were teeming.
But the managers forgot that when you increase the number of students you also have to boost the number of books, lecturers and other resources.
They also forgot that standards too should not be thrown out through the window.
As more graduates where churned out yearly the few proper law firms in
Lesotho could not accommodate them for internships, leaving the greenhorns to their own devices.
Nothing is as toxic as a lawyer who scrapped through university and also lacks on-the-job-training.
A lawyer who drank more bottles of beer than the number of book pages they read during their five years at law school is a danger to both the clients and themselves.
Unwanted and unemployed by the few law firms, the young lawyers resorted to government jobs where they were paid such pittances that they gave up on improving their limited knowledge of law.
Reading became a taboo.
How could they read when their take home salaries were not enough to take them home?
Those who could not get government jobs decided they could go it alone and opened some Mickey Mouse law firms that soon crumbled due to low business.
In the meantime NUL had opened the floodgates allowing more chuff into the tiny legal industry.
The scramble for clients began but this time where lawyers used to compete on the basis of competence blatant “ambulance-chasing” became the modus operandi.
Legal fees hit rock-bottom as the lawyers accepted pittances just to get by.
And soon enough the standards followed the prices.
Ill-educated and ill-orientated lawyers found themselves arguing cases before judges when they should have started with some clerical work at a law firm to learn the ropes first.
The only reason they were in court is because they were charging starvation fees.
This is one of the few countries were law graduates walk from the law school into the court.
It would seem that the Law Society of Lesotho, which is supposed to take the lead in sorting this mess, has gone into a deep slumber.
The only time they wake up is when they find a new fight to pick with either the judges or the Chief Justice.
It is not surprising that the society has so far failed to help improve the waning standards in the fraternity.
What is most disturbing is that the society has the nerve to be arrogant when requested by members to deal with problems in the industry.
Its haughtiness was on display last month when a local attorney wrote to the society complaining that advocates were stealing business from attorneys.
He said advocates had continued to illegally appear in court without instructions from attorneys.
The attorney said advocates had developed a penchant for illegally collecting fees directly from clients.
When the society responded it made it clear that while it was aware of the chicanery it was not interested in being reminded that it has not done anything about it. In short, they told the attorney to behave himself.
With regulators like the Law Society of Lesotho who needs a sorcerer to understand why the noble profession has become horrible?
Next week I will tell you the real reason why the society is not in a hurry to deal with the attorney’s complaints.
It is said that the reason why Moses got lost in the wilderness for 40 years is because men never ask for directions.
They are an arrogant lot, those ones.
So it is not a surprise that almost five years after the last election our political leadership, which is dominated by men, is still haggling over the allocation of proportional representation seats in parliament. The debate and discussions over the matter have become nauseatingly sterile.
Take for instance All Basotho Convention leader Thomas Thabane’s tirade against the Sadc delegation last week.
“My heart now hurts badly,” said Thabane. “How long have we been sitting around the table without attaining much even with external intervention from Sadc?”
In sharp contrast the bishop was singing a different tune telling all who cared to listen that the mission had been fully accomplished.
Scrutator could only hold her breath.
Until we learn to resolve simple matters on our own and not out-source our problems to foreigners we shall continue to moan until the donkeys grow horns.
What happens when laziness is a national sport?
“Lazy” servants come to work late but are the first to stampede out at the door before 4.30pm.
Virtually no production takes place on Fridays after lunch as workers are already in the mood for the weekend.
For years Scrutator thought this disease is only in the civil service but she now knows there is no house without its fair share of rats.
Some doctors have been busy dishing out fake sick leave notes to allow the lazy ones amongst us to dodge work successfully.
After a weekend of drinking hopose these workers are apparently too inebriated to lift themselves up to go to work.
Their solution is simple – visit their doctor and convince him that they are sick and need five days off!
It’s time to fumigate this profession to get rid of the rats!