8 Things I’d Say to a New Lawyer

Onyinyechi Ukegbu

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There are few events more monumental in a lawyer’s career as when they pass their first bar exam. Finally, all the sleepless nights reading legalese in tiny print was worth it. Finally, all the socilaising you missed can now begin. And best of all, all the questions about whether you’re good enough, and terrors of all that could happen to your paper between the writing and result is now over. Recently, recent graduates of the Nigerian Law School took to social media to celebrate their success at the bar exams. To celebrate with and congratulate them, LEGAL BUSINESS reached out to older wigs at different points in their careers to share some words of wisdom from their journeys so far.

 

Desmond Ogba, Partner, Templars

Year of Call: 2008

Quote: The manner in which the law is practised is fast changing and that dynamism will continue.  As the global economy evolves, lawyers are also evolving to meet the needs of today’s ever demanding and sophisticated clients.  As a result, today’s lawyers are venturing into areas which their predecessors traditionally did not venture into: international arbitration, technology, fintech, cybersecurity and data protection, entertainment, clean energy, and several other emerging areas.  To stay relevant and competitive, the new lawyers must carve a niche for themselves while developing early-stage competences in other areas of practice.

The saying that the world is a global village has never been truer than in this post-covid world.  Our new lawyers must therefore have a global outlook and approach in all that they do.  Achieving this will necessarily require constant personal and professional development, seeking out the right mentors, being commercially aware, networking appropriately and doing those things that will enable them to develop a good professional brand.  That for me, is the way to gain mileage as a young legal professional in today’s world.

 

Perenami Momodu, Partner, AELEX

Year of Call: 2009

Quote: Congratulations on passing your bar exams. To thrive, you must be consistent with putting in the work, acquiring knowledge and building expertise. Ensure that you are diligent, dependable and credible. Pace yourself, don’t be too quick to focus on a particular area of law. Be sure to embrace changes that typically happen within the legal space. Wish you all the best.

 

Oyeyemi Aderibigbe, Senior Associate, Templars and Chairperson, NBA-SBL Young Lawyers Forum

Year of Call: 2009

Quote: “You are Art”. Kudos to you, you made it through the production line! Now it is time to deliver on the dream, the one you had and was had about you before you subjected yourself to preparation. Pause a minute, you are at the beginning of the artwork and tapestry that will become your career. One thing you must really know, you hold the pen. You are in control of the masterpiece that is you. You are Art in Motion. You have so much to give, give it with all your heart and truly answer the call to the bar. Congratulations.

 

Akinyemi Ayinoluwa, Partner, Hightower Lawyers

Year of Call: 2010

Quote: I will like to advise with respect to three major areas. Namely, the importance of mentorship, identifying a niche area of practice, and using technology and social media to build an audience that supports law practice.

Proper mentoring helps to limit the number of mistakes young lawyers would make in the pursuit of their professional aspirations. A good mentor is usually invested in the professional development of his or her mentee. I advise that young lawyers research areas of law they intend to pursue, and identify successful and reputable lawyers in those areas. They should then intentionally cultivate relationships with these lawyers.

With respect to finding a niche, I believe that it is very difficult for a lawyer to service clients in all areas of law. It is best that young lawyers attach themselves to specialist areas of law. This is because many reports confirm that specialist lawyers are fiercely courted for their experience and skill because of the many years of experience they have gathered in a narrow discipline. Reports also confirm that these specialist lawyers earn more money than their generalist counterparts and are able to build a profitable practice in a short period of time.

In 2021, the global economy is recovering from the impact of the COVID pandemic. While international traveling has been hugely impacted, technology has helped bridge the gap in the dispensation of legal services. Lawyers are able to use new technology solutions to facilitate legal representation and conduct transactions. More importantly, social media marketing has helped firm win over new clients, spread out in different territories.

For new wigs who might not find opportunities with big law firms, they would have to create new opportunities by embarking on an entrepreneurial venture. Social media would help make finding and retaining clients a lot easier.

 

Ajibola Asolo, Partner, Aluko & Oyebode

Year of Call: 2011

Quote: My advice to younger lawyers coming up is the same that I try to apply myself, in terms of my professional life and things I do. It comes from the fourth stanza in Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If. The sentence goes: “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the earth and everything that’s in it …” Basically, it means ‘do what needs to be done when it needs to be done’, and everything else tends to fall in line. There is no grand strategy beyond that.

 

Adedunmade Onibokun, Founder, LegalNaija and Author, Socilal Media for Lawyers

Year of Call: 2011

Quote: Dear New Wigs, Welcome to the distinguished Legal profession. Note that learning the business of law, is as important as perfecting your skills as a lawyer. Also choose the firm you apply to work in carefully as your experiences as a young lawyer go a long way in shaping your legal career. Find a mentor who is accessible and can serve as a guide along your career journey, and ensure you are abreast of current global legal trends and practices. Always be confident and professional, and lastly, note that excellence is the opposite of mediocrity. I wish you the very best.

 

The Lawyartist

Year of Call: 2011

Quote: Learn as much as you can in your first two years. These years are crucial, soak up every bit of law you feel interested in, put in the work!  After this time, compare your current income, working hours, long term goals and inflation. It is likely you will need a better paying job, side hustle and/or passive income (for me, this is my art business). In summary, in Nigeria, law makes you smart but seldom pays. Good Luck.

 

Ifeatu Agbu, Associate, Lexavier Partners

Year of Call: 2018

Quote: Set goals early!

As a law student, there were always preset goals to work towards – pass exams, get good grades, etc. However, in a legal career, these cease to exist (at least for the first few years) and it may feel like you are working to no end. So, map out your long-term career goal(s) and set medium and short-term goals that will motivate and qualify you for those goals.

 

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