Tell us about yourself.
My name is Kelechi Ayodele Christopher Nwuzi. I’m a young lawyer in the law firm of Principles Law Partnership, Port Harcourt who is very passionate about the legal profession especially in the area of litigation. I love advocacy and i always ensure to carry out my client’s instructions as well as my set objectives to achieve eventual satisfaction.
I am a graduate of the prestigious “Better By Far” University of Ilorin in Kwara State from where I obtained my LLB degree before I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Augustine Nnamani Campus, Enugu State following which I was called to the Nigerian Bar. I have been in active practice since my year of call and have participated in some professional courses too like the Chartered Institute of Arbitration, UK and Chartered Institute of Taxation, Nigeria.
Why your choice of law?
I always knew I was going to be a lawyer. First off, I was in the Arts department in my secondary school days and law was the most professional course to study in that department at that time and I still think it is so I opted for law because I couldn’t settle for anything less.
What is your alternative, should law not be the avenue for you?
Comedy!! I probably would have been in the entertainment industry making plenty money like Basket Mouth from making people laugh. For me, it comes naturally I guess, so yes – Comedy. Lol.
What was your solo appearance as a new wig in court?
As a new wig, I cut my teeth with the law firm of Adedipe & Adedipe SAN and I remember arguing an innocuous motion for extension of time then. It was the life for me that day and I was before Hon. Justice Diepiri of the Rivers State High Court. I doubt I did badly except that I could hear my heart beat much more than my voice but since then till now, it’s been fun all the way for me in the court room across various courts.
What do you like most about legal practice?
Litigation – Critical Analysis and Advocacy skills for me are the most important aspect of law practice. It is my genuine pleasure to always address the Court having prepared for the case at hand. There’s this joy that comes with knowing you addressed the court eloquently and articulately with the appropriate points of law which leads to the overall and eventual success in a concluded matter. It is what I love most about the legal practice.
What do you feel are the things that can help a person become successful in practice?
Focus! Discipline! And Hard Work (which is rewarded by more work)! My boss always says to me “kill your distractions and focus on your work”. A good lawyer should always be prepared by studying files and reading up law reports to stay abreast with the development of the law. You’ll be surprised how much you can achieve the moment you are focused and not consumed by life’s daily distractions. It is not easy especially as we are in the social media era where there’s always a news feed that catches your attention and eventually takes you off the course of your work coupled with the fact that we are constantly bombarded with the ‘picture perfect lives’ of people on the internet. A lot of people no longer want to put in the work to get to where they desire. Patience is also an important virtue as they say and it is more so in Legal Practice as you MUST pay your dues. Stay hungry and never get complacent.
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about a case, wishing you had handled something differently? If so, please describe one situation. (If any)
Every active lawyer must have done this at one point in time or the other. The most recent that comes to my mind is a case at the Bayelsa State High Court where I had asked some questions during Cross examination and the witness gave an answer that went contrary to that which I envisaged. Those questions and answers kept hunting me all through the night. I couldn’t sleep, I kept wondering why I didn’t ask the questions in this way or that way and how that would affect the outcome of the case. Thankfully, it turned out well eventually.
In what ways do you think the judiciary can improve on dispensation of Justice
I believe our Judges do a lot of work. It’s a really hectic one for them but I think the entire judiciary needs to be empowered to transform from the long hand mode of recording to the electronic mode. This way, cases will be dispensed with much more speedily thereby decongesting the courts. Also, not all matters need to end up in the courtroom and take all the years they do to be dispensed with. ADR and other modes of dispute resolution mechanisms should be encouraged.
Give an example of a time you experienced conflict or disagreement. How did you resolve this? (If any)
Conflict comes with the territory; it is part of the job description so there is no single situation I can pin point to at this moment. However, I try not to get into this sort of situation but as a lawyer, one tends to agree or disagree all the time.
Have you ever benefited from your disappointment/mistakes?
Definitely! I mean, I believe that mistakes are life’s teachers. If you make a mistake and it reoccurs in the same manner on several other occasions, perhaps it is time to look into yourself to see what the problem is because at that point it ceases to be a mistake but now a habit. You need to see through your mistakes and errors and become a better person by evaluating yourself from them so you don’t make the mistakes anymore. With respect to disappointments, I believe every lawyer has that one client or experience that has taught him or her a lesson.
Who has been most influential in your life?
I can’t give you a specific number as there have been various influential people at different points in my life. My parents, my Pastor, my former Dean at the faculty of Law, Unilorin – Prof. M.M.Akanbi, my present employers; Miannaya Aja Essien, SAN, Aham Eke Ejelam SAN and Sola Laniyan, Esq – who by the way are amongst the tier most influential lawyers in Nigeria today – as well as other legal luminaries whom I have great respect for like Chief Wole Olanikpekun, SAN, Hon. Justice E. N.Thompson, Chief Ifedayo Adams Adedipe, SAN, Chief O.C.J.Okocha,SAN, Ayodele Akintunde, SAN and Chief Arthur Obi Okafor, SAN who are some of the names that come immediately to mind as it is indeed an endless list. I am indeed grateful for their mentorship and the lessons learned from them.
What do you have to say about the poor or no salary payment to young lawyer.
Well, as much as I concede that there are not so many law firms that pay young lawyers adequately, some law firms do well to take care of their young lawyers (I can confirm this from personal expense experience). However, it is discouraging and disappointing to see some law firms with prolific lawyers and in some, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, who pay little or nothing to their young lawyers who in most cases double as personal assistants or secretaries in these offices. It’s disheartening you know; How can you pay a young lawyer in this day and age 15k or 30k at the end of the month? Some have families and people at home to take care of! You would be surprised to know that the young lawyers are the most industrious in all these law firms. The bulk of the work is done by them and they get paid the least. It is not fair – not by any standard. I started my law practice years ago earning about 25k but I’m thankful that things have improved. That’s how it should be – All round growth not only in height but in your income too. In any event, I realize that this issue is more predominant in firms where you have the sole practice system where there is no proper office management in place. In some larger offices like Partnerships, it seems to be the case that the lawyers employed there are paid better than those in sole practice but even in some of these Partnerships where lawyers earn reasonably; there are still other issues which should be addressed so as to be beneficial to the young lawyers – Like trainings and conferences etc. The point is that things need to change; young lawyers need to be supported and i also think this change will happen when we start to see the practice of law as a real business that needs sustainability and growth to thrive as opposed to a family run kiosk that one leaves for his child to inherit when he’s no more.
Are you better working alone, or as part of a team?
It depends on the kind of work. There are some jobs you have to do alone and when I do them, I like to have my seniors in chambers take a look at it and make imputes where necessary. This way, you can take correction and grow till you get to the point where you can do your own thing, settle your pleadings and other drafts yourself as it should be.
Teamwork is also very good too and should be encouraged in that it provides an avenue or platform for professionals working together to harness their various expertise for the eventual success of the team. Team work does indeed make the dream work. At a recent workshop organized for young lawyers by the NBA Port Harcourt Branch, it was seriously highlighted, the need for team work and my friend Emmanuel Adikema, Esq took this issue very personally and I agree with him in totality. You know what they say, “When the team wins, everyone wins” so yes, I prefer team work.