Why I left The Bar For The Bench- Prof Justice Peter Umeadi
Why I left The Bar For The Bench- Prof Justice Peter Umeadi
LAW PERSONALITY INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Congratulations for having a meritorious service at the High Court of Anambra State Judiciary from which you retired recently as a Chief Judge. You had what could be described as a successful law practice in Lagos as a lawyer. Why did you choose to leave the Bar for the Bench?
There is an allure which the Bar has that make it difficult to be abandoned. Perhaps that explains that persons who have retired in their chosen career go back to studying law and be called to the Bar. I graduated LL. B (Hons) from the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus in 1979. I attended the Nigeria Law School in Lagos and was called to the Bar in 1980. I served in the NYSC from 1980 to 1981 in Lagos State. It was time to delve into the practice of the law itself. I chose to remain in Lagos after my NYSC. My classmate in the University and Law School and my friend Chukwudum Ikeazor Esq, thought of something which could be helpful. His father Chief Chimezie Ikeazor SAN of blessed memory had a law office at No.14/16 Abibu Oki Street on Lagos Island. Chukwudum took me there on the 3rd floor and put me into that law office. He had interests other that litigation which he left to pursue. Eventually he joined the British Police Force like his grandfather who was a Commissioner of Police in the colonial era in Eastern Region of Nigeria. He is author of books. I found myself ensconced in the heart of Lagos in an opportune office space to practice my law. It was too good to be true. Yet I started immediately, printing my visiting card with the existing telephone in the office. My business of law practice had started. I knew my days were numbered. It lasted for some months before the bubble burst. The landlords of the premises would come to repossess their space when the term expired since late Chief Chimezie Ikeazor SAN had since stopped using the office. I left the office. Later I was told of a senior lawyer who needed a junior lawyer to work with on an associate basis. That suited me and I applied. Behold, in a twist of fate the senior lawyer Late Chief B.I.D Ezeogu of blessed memory of B.I.D Ezeogu and Associates, Legal Practitioners, had taken up the same office space at 14/16 Abibu Oki Street Lagos. I was to work with him from October 1981 until December 1981. He was genial and accommodating and I sat back to learn the ropes. However my past stay in the same office would come up to bring me unmerited troubles. My principal was using the same phone number which late Chief Chimezie Ikeazor SAN used, which my friend Chukwudum Ikeazor Esq transferred to me, which I printed on my call cards. Quite often my erstwhile clients would call and when my principal picked the phone which was on his table they would ask of my humble self as the owner of the number. My principal considered it impudent of me to give out his phone number as mine and bring him disturbance. I was in a dilemma, I had distributed many of my cards and no way I could stop the calls. In chastising me he had told me how much he paid for the office. He had been very nice to me. He had taken me to the Ritz Hotel across Broad Street, for lunch in the best traditions of the Bar, on occasions when I had impressed him with how I handled what he assigned to me to do. I decided not to complicate things by telling him I was in the office before he took it up and set my mind to leave his law office in December 1981. He was such a nice man as he tried to make me not leave early before Christmas, when I informed him, as according to him, that is when juniors should stay and get whatever briefs could come their way. Well, before Christmas 1981 I left Lagos and returned to my dear mother of blessed memory at Aba. In February 1982 I was well rested and I set to return once more to Lagos to engage my fortunes and see what is in store for me. My family already made arrangement where I would stay from where I would hit the streets again to search for work. On the day of my departure through Port Harcourt airport. I met Jude Idigbe Esq. my classmate from C.K.C Onitsha and my senior at the Bar by one year. I had not seen him since we left the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus. We embraced and in our talk I learnt he was in Port Harcourt to do a court matter. I told him how I made a retreat from Lagos to gather myself. How having rested I was returning to Lagos to see what nature had in store for me. He told me he was working in the Chambers of Chief Rotimi Williams SAN, the doyen of the Nigerian Bar. He further told me that the chambers had vacancies and that if I was interested he could get me to come for the interview sometime in March 1982. I signified interest immediately and he promised to do as we talked and we dispersed. I was taken to work as a junior counsel in the Chambers of Chief Rotimi Williams SAN. There I remained from March 1982 to December 1983. That would earn me the membership of the prestigious BLACK TABLE. With all modesty I would describe that opportunity as being at the tower of legal practice in Nigeria. Chief Rotimi Williams SAN was a humane person, passionate with his vocation as a lawyer, and a man full of charity and compassion. Nature also had endowed him with wisdom, discernment, family both nuclear and extended surrounding him and allowed him a happy long life to which was added opulence. When I left the Chambers of Chief Rotimi Williams SAN, I returned to Onitsha where I set up my law firm of Peter Umeadi and Co, Legal Practitioners at 22 Oguta Road Onitsha. There I was in the same premises with late Humphrey Egwuatu Esq, late Ndidi Chinwuba Esq, Chief Clement C. Mbadinuju (Odera) who later became the Governor of Anambra State and Jide Okorji Esq. P.A. Afuba Esq. who later became Attorney General of Anambra State on two different occasions and also Commissioner for Lands was there and Hon. Linda Ikpeazu, Member House of Representative in National Assembly later had her constituency office in the same building. I was the first lawyer to set up office in that building. I would return to Lagos again in March 1992. I set up office first at 22 Wilmer Street Ilupeju courtesy of my good friend late Fide Onyekwelu Esq. and later moved to 94 Obafemi Awolowo Road Ikeja. In 1997 by the intervention of my uncle and mentor Chief Philip Ezebilo Umeadi SAN of blessed memory, I was sworn in as a Judge of the High Court of Anambra State on 14/1/1997. I started with the Bar and ended up on the Bench. The Bench is the pinnacle of the career in the legal profession. I enjoyed work at the Bar of which I had the privilege to be exposed to different facets of endeavor. When I had the opportunity to move up to the Bench I took it gladly. It represents the completion of the cycle of my career as a legal practitioner for which achievement I count as providential grace.