For those of us who did not learn Latin as a language in school, we have been privileged to join the noble class of people who “speak” the language in today’s world either through our affiliation with church or the legal profession. Most, if not all, law students will encounter Latin phrases while studying for their degrees, and while they may be fun to say and their meanings understood by those in the legal profession, they should be spoken only when in the midst of other lawyers. The general rule would be to use sparingly in communication with clients.
Sure, you might impress a date when you sprinkle Latin expressions over sips of red wine and exploratory conversation. But beware; a client who has come to you to help them out of a pickle will not appreciate your knowledge of Latin. They are not in the same frame of mind as your date!
The spouting of Latin phrases may not be the practice of the lawyers that you know, but trust me when I say that it is a common practice with lawyers in Nigeria. If the efficiency of a judicial system was assessed based on the frequency with which lawyers use Latin phrases, I dare say Nigeria would make the top ten list. But alas! That is not the case.
While some schools now make it compulsory for law students to study a Plain Legal English module, the push for simplicity is rolling on a slow tide towards Nigeria. Legalese is better regarded than legal ease. But none of the acrobatics of legalese is of interest to the client if a lawyer is unable to solve their problem.
So what do clients need and deserve?
- That their lawyer is open and honest with them about their chances in a matter;
- That there will be free flow of information from their lawyer regarding the status of their case;
- That such communication will be done in plain English to ensure that the client understands what is going on at every stage of the matter; and
- That their lawyer will put in his best effort to get the best possible resolution to their issue.
This is what clients want.
So the answer to the title question is, mea non interest (I don’t care)!