Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Mustapha Shittu Mahuta Esq. is a Private Legal Practitioner and Principal Managing Counsel of Messrs M. S. Mahuta & Co. (Pinnacle Chambers) based in Katsina, Katsina State Branch of the NBA. An Associate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (ACIArb.) and Member Nigerian Institute of Management (MNIM) He is currently pursuing Masters Degree in Law at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Graduate of Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto Nigeria. Attended Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law School.
What area (s) of law interests you.?
I would want to say that civil litigation is one aspect of the law which I cherish the most. It’s to me what makes a good lawyer. Civil lawsuits can be very interesting as it usually borders on claims in which one person, company or entity sues another. Civil lawsuits are fundamentally different from criminal aspects of the law and it’s very broad in scope and very technical in terms of the principles and rules governing each topic or aspect of it. In civil lawsuits there is less pressure on the part of the Lawyer coming from Clients especially when the client is under arrest at the police station or prison. I don’t like the pressures i get from Clients. I understand that the police as well as other law enforcement agencies takes undue advantage of the unnecessary delays in our administration of criminal justice system by friends frustrating lawyer’s efforts at securing bail for his Client suspected of crime in a given detention center. in Civil suits endeared me the most, because they are not brought by a prosecutor, attorney general or agent of the state, but instead are brought by an individual or an entity (like a corporation). And so the almighty power of the state apparatus and machineries are not there. Another thing is that the remedies sought in civil lawsuits are generally limited to monetary damages and declaratory or injunctive reliefs. Nobody goes to prison for the most of the times. Even though I am relatively still young in the profession, I have reached a point in my career where I decided to be specific about which clients I accept and what type of matters I want to be involved with because I enjoy being able to do my cases thoroughly and with understanding of the client’s interests and trying to meet them within the bounds of the law and without unnecessary pressure from any quarters.
What do you like most about legal practice?
Why do you choose to be a lawyer?
I have been asked the question a million times. I am interested in becoming a lawyer for several reasons. Although I didn’t choose per say, to be a lawyer, but somehow through God’s divine plan I found myself reading law. What actually happened was that after my secondary education, I applied for an admission for remedial studies at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. As God will have it, I was given the admission to do remedial studies under the school of art and not school of science to which I applied. I was not surprised, this is because I had an ‘F’ in mathematics. I took a bit of leap faith, left science and went to read art which turns out to be a good choice for not only have I found an opportunity to do away with maths which course I despise but also a platform that would allow me to be an advocate and to constantly learn and grow. I like to stand in for people more especially, the weak, the poor and the honest who normally are at the receiving end in almost everything that has to do with fighting for their rights and interests.
As a science student before becoming a lawyer, my initial ambition was to join the army but I could not. One reason I became a lawyer is that I discovered that my strengths were in analyzing problems and advising others. Being a lawyer can require a wide range of skills and unexpected challenges. I am an organized person and I like seeing people doing things in line with the law. So for this, the study of law and learning about how an argument could be made on both sides of any case also gave me the impetus to go for the legal profession where I would have a lot of interaction with others. Being a lawyer is a great opportunity to be an expert and use your skills to make a difference to people’s lives. The law is a fascinating and very interesting field of study. Positive impacts can be made on a daily basis by lawyers. I also felt that the law is an ever changing and dynamic field of study and therefore, makes or prepared you ready to learn on a lifelong basis.
What is your most critical time in practice you had to deal with?
I would say that my most critical time is during my first and second year of pupilage. I had the impression that passing the bar examination was the most difficult thing in our profession but it later dawned on me that it is not. In fact I understand that one has to keep struggling. I realized in a nutshell that, that was just the beginning of my struggles in the profession. I also came to understand that Senior or principal lawyers tends to find it difficult to release money to their juniors in chambers. I remember when I would sometimes had to borrow money to transport myself to and fro the chambers. Another critical time was when I was to start my law firm after 5 good years of pupilage. I never imagined how difficult it is, setting up a law office. Even though I planned ahead, I was not that very prepared for the stress. That experience made me to understand that many senior lawyers that I know who refused to start their law office was perhaps because it is too hard and costly to establish and to maintain. It is also difficult to get new clients immediately after establishing a law office. But at the end you find that it pays to start one’s office to make your mark on same.
What do you think determines progress in practice?
Humility, honesty, forbearance and hard work are the vehicle that will carry you to succeed in your practice life. Being a successful lawyer requires a combination of high intelligence, strong analytical and advocacy skills and an ability to communicate effectively (both verbally and in writing). To be successful, typically you have develop a passion for a particular legal speciality or practice area as an expert in that particular area which fosters a high level of commitment to work. One also has to understand his clients’ objectives, and advocate on that basis (not on the law in isolation). Even if one is born with all of these qualities and determined to pursue genuine expertise, you aren’t guaranteed success, because at some point you will probably have to market your “greatness” and promote yourself.
What are your outside interests and hobbies?
Traveling is the apex of all my hobbies. I like playing and watching soccer. I also like being in the social media where I can know what’s trending and also gain information, knowledge and socialize with new people. I also really enjoy reading, writing, and analysis.
Have you ever benefited from your disappointment/mistakes?
Oh yes! I benefitted from the disappointment of not getting admission to read sciences in the school of matriculation studies UDU Sokoto where I was instead given admission under the school of arts and eventually admitted into the faculty of law. And many more too numerous to be mentioned here.
Could you tell us your experience as a young lawyer ?
From my little experience, I realized that even though there are lots of lawyers out there, there were very few lawyers that really know how to try cases and frankly, very few who even want to. This remains as true today and this applies to almost all areas of general litigation and corporate practice, not just what people like to call ‘charge and bail’ practice. These experiences taught me something important. It doesn’t matter how many lawyers are out there. It doesn’t matter how many lawyers directly compete with you. Once you’ve proved that you can get results even on tough cases, then you have something that very few other lawyers have. You have something that makes you different from all the other lawyers. My very first trial, about three months after I passed the bar exam, was a complete disaster. I had no idea what I was doing. No lawyer just wakes up one day and knows how to do all of cases. It requires dedicated study. So much of what we do is not intuitive. It’s a bit of the two; partly science and partly art. It almost all has to be learned. You have to dedicate the time to learn and also be in court observing senior lawyers doing their cases and reading copy of any court process prepared either by senior lawyers.
Who has been most influential in your life?
I am heavily influenced by my late elder sister, Nafisat Shittu Mahuta. Growing up, I saw my late elder sister as a pillar where I can always lean on for support, love and encouragement. It is also because of her that I was able to pay my law school registration fees. She had ti take a bank loan just to see that I progress in my career m. She has taught me to be passionate about everything and to never give up. May Allah have mercy on her soul.
Your word of encouragement to up coming lawyers ?
And if there is any advice I can give to young lawyers, it is this: you must invest in yourself, and make this investment in yourself your top priority. No matter how busy you are, and no matter how many hours you work. You must invest in your self.