AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION
Francisca Serwaa Boateng
Founder & Managing Counsel, FSB Law Consult, Ghana.
Why did you decide to study law?
As a child, I did not have any dream of becoming a lawyer. In fact, before my 6th birthday, - and I remember vividly - my dream was to be an ‘adowa’ dancer! Fortunately or unfortunately, I passed my A’ Levels well enough to qualify me to read law at the University of Ghana, Legon.
That said, my real interest in the subject of law was borne out of my innate believe in fair and equal treatment of all persons in spite of their circumstances. I saw law as an avenue to achieve balance in society between the haves and have-not-so-much.
What is your proudest professional moment thus far?
My proudest professional moment was the day I handed over a cheque to a client as his compensation given by court for his wrongful dismissal. The client, barely literate, had been dismissed without a pesewa/penny by his employer, a foreign multi-national company. I will never forget his relief and excitement.
Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?
The one thing I would have done differently would have been to develop a ‘sixth sense’ to know that “one may smile, and smile, and be a villain”, as Shakespeare wrote in HAMLET. Such characters can sell one’s soul to the devil for a pittance. Watchfulness is a virtue.
Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.
I launched into private law practice right after I was called to the Bar over twenty years ago. In the early years, the challenge was mainly the daily drudgery of a typical young and single practitioner’s life. That is, spending long hours in court for hearings. And boy, were those hearings memorable - sometimes, just listening to legal gobbledygook coined from ossified phrases and antiquated terminology.
I set up my law firm when my first child was barely two years old. And then another came along. There were days I would hold my baby with my left hand while taking down a client’s instructions with my right. Schools on vacation? I carried kids along to court. Till date, some lawyers and judges still remember them and send their regards every so often. Running two businesses - law firm and 'mommyhood' - full time was, and still is, no easy task.
What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?
As a legal practitioner, one of my best strategies has been to get help from family, friends and colleagues both in and outside the law profession. It’s always crucial. Also, I focus on my niche area of practice. As a litigation lawyer, I handle only civil cases and so I have honed my skills excellently in my area of practice. Moreover, I make time to prepare for each appointment, court session, presentation, etc. It helps one gain the respect of both judge and opposing lawyer alike. I manage my time efficeintly. I ensure that I make maximum use of my court and office hours by planning my days well. That way, my weekends and evenings are spared for family and friends. Lastly, bullies exist in every realm, and the legal profession is no exception. My strategy has been this: stand up to bullies no matter who they think they are.