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A bad economy is good for lawyers- Appolos Shimakeleni

by Kelvin Chiringa

Formerly an understudy in the office of the government attorney, young dreamer and admitted legal practitioner of the High Court, Appolos Shimakeleni has dared to venture on a path of his own carrying his fledgling law firm by the shoulders.

The Villager caught up with the University of Namibia graduate to get into the bits and pieces of what drove an employed senior legal officer into opening a firm during one of Namibia most difficult economic dry-spells. 

Appolos Shimakeleni Lawyers is located in the upmarket part of the city within the pristine precincts of Maerua Mall Office Tower which overlooks the aerial expanse of Windhoek’s concrete jungle.  

It is here that this reporter finds him attending to an accomplice donning an executive but drab suit wearing a flourishing beard neatly shaven in the jaws, just enough to give him the executive touch of a young entrepreneur.

A brief firm hand-shack and he was playing the escort on our way to the tower’s balcony that presents before its frequent visitors, the prepossessing huge city-scape of Windhoek and its slick fast moving expensive cars.

And so what makes this dreaming young-man of Oshakati dare to nose-dive within a competitive pool of the Sisa Namandjes and Norman Tjombes of this world? 

“It is competitive of course,” he begins as he locks his palms over the table, enough to reveal an expensive looking time-piece wrapped round the small of his wrist.

“We have 130 law-firms in Namibia and obviously its much easier for established law-firms becaues people know them. You must also remember that they are expensive but it is not to say that people can not afford them. And so for a new law firm you have to offer competitive rates because your clients are also not that many.” 

For him the idea is not to fight to be that typical bad-ass lawyer that never loses a single case, something he says, is quite beyond the abilities of most practicing lawyers.  

“It’s always about getting the best for your clients,” he smiles as his eyes glints within the daylight of a Windhoek busy afternoon.

Winning or losing a case is at the end of the day not up to the lawyer, he reasons, adding that it all falls back to facts surrounding individual cases versus what the law says.

“If the law is against your case you are not going to have a good case. Your obligation is to do thorough research and that of the facts and get the best for your client. In criminal cases, it could be that your client is convicted but you get a suspended sentence. That is a victory on its own although you have technically lost the case,” he explains. 

But how many understand that? 

“No they don’t, I don’t think many people understand that. When they look at a lawyer they say Oh this guy is good. He will win a case!” he says. 

Shimakeleni says he has more often than not been prodded by close associates as to why he had dared to take the plunge to go solo when the economy is melting down. 

“I actually think that a bad economy might be good for lawyers because a bad economy brings financial problems, people are unable to service their debts. It’s especially with businesses. If you are unable to pay it means the other guy will take you to court to recover it.  How does he go to court? He finds a lawyer.” 

While he says it is not so often that law firms advertise, but he has taken to social media for brand visibility.  

As this interview draws to its end after praises of the independent justice system and how the state is trying to go the extra-mile and cover for those who can’t afford lawyers, Shimakeleni takes time to choose the best image out of the many we take with the camera.

 His love for precision and perfection is quite revealing, who wouldn’t, especially with  a budding brand to nurse?