Of course, first the fox must be chased away, and then the hen warned against wandering into the bush alone. But when certain things become very common, such a pattern deserves a war cry! When you see rabbits casually lounging in burrows that leopards look at and hesitate, there’s a problem.
No real criminal defense attorney will dare to defend himself in criminal court; they know only too well the dangers of such bravery. You know law enforcement officers may look simple (some actually look completely harmless), but with the stroke of a pen, in the blink of an eye, your life can be almost permanently redefined by sending you to prison.
The lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client! Take Isaac Ssemakadde – one of the most brilliant lawyers in town: never far from trouble, but you’ll never catch him trying to defend himself. But thousands of non-lawyers are comfortable going to criminal courts to defend themselves. Unbelievable!
I recently received an 911 call from someone who urgently needed a lawyer for a family member. I asked a question: is he in prison? Yes, he was in prison; the hospitality of our good old Dr. Enjoy Johnson Byabashaija. Oh, that’s the Commissioner General of Prisons. It turned out that my new client had represented himself (it is allowed). He had been sentenced and was now awaiting sentencing. Is it too late to call a lawyer in this situation? Good news is no! Just because you’ve been convicted doesn’t mean you have to go to jail.
In fact, this story had a happy ending, and as I speak, my client is munching Javas on a sandwich in a cafe somewhere. So in theory, it’s never too late to call your attorney. But if you hire an attorney from the start, you’ll save yourself the legal fees and a lot of unnecessary hassle. Most people in Uganda’s prisons are there because they didn’t use a lawyer to begin with.
And even in civil courts, most cases (especially real estate) get there because they started with a transaction where someone felt they didn’t need a lawyer. But you see, Ugandans are used to treating themselves; Swallow Panadol or Hedex at the first sign of a headache, magnesium or metronidazole if you have a stomach ache, and Coartem if you have a fever – without consulting a doctor!
They only go to the doctor when they die. In the same way, they want to go into a police station without a lawyer! Read my lips: You are free to enter a police station day or night, but you will only exit if they don’t want to detain you!
Uganda now has thousands of advocates scattered in every city. Every Ugandan family should have a lawyer to advise them in everything they do. It shows that you are enlightened and serious about life. Open a file with a law firm in your area, contact them regularly so you don’t get into trouble.
Don’t try to be smart: if sheet iron enters your premises uninvited, talk to your attorney. If government money comes into your account without you knowing it, talk to your attorney. Talk to your attorney before accepting bribes. And please never lie to your lawyer at times like this.
If you are in trouble and cannot afford a lawyer, contact free legal advice. Apply to Justice Centers – found at almost every court. Call Uganda Law Society, FIDA, Legal Aid Service Providers Network, Public Interest Law Clinic (at Makerere University Faculty of Law), Uganda Muslim Lawyers Association, Uganda Christian Lawyers Fraternity, etc.
Warning: Each area of law is a sea unto itself, so it is unusual to find a good lawyer in every area of law. Lawyers get the same basic training, but after that they diversify into different areas of interest, where they become experts because they continue to educate themselves in those areas and spend years doing the same thing over and over until it becomes second nature.
Not all lawyers and law firms are the same. Just like not all doctors are the same – you don’t want to have heart surgery in a dental clinic.