Emokiniovo Akpedeye

Emokiniovo Akpedeye is the daughter of Dafe Akpedeye (SAN). She tells ADEBISI ONANUGA all about her dreams and why she studied law after a degree in Economics.

Unlike some youths, Emokiniovo Akpedeye followed in her father’s footstep by studying law. The father, Dafe Akpedeye (SAN), is Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Election Working Group.

“As a young child, I followed my dad to court and the Police Station near my house on various occasions. In fact, one time when I was about five years old, a police officer stopped my mum and I for carrying a drum of diesel in our pickup and he threatened to take us to the police station and I said, ‘don’t worry Mum, I know the DPO at that station’.

“The man was shocked and let us go. I guess I have always known that I wanted to be an advocate for people and on becoming an adult, I realised that a country cannot progress without an effective legal system and lawyers as custodians of the rule of law. So, studying law was, therefore, an easy choice.’’

Asked if she ever considered any other profession, she disclosed that her first degree was not in law but in Economics and Management.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the course so much that I made a First Class. In fact, during my last year of the degree, I applied for both Law and a Masters in Development Economics. However, one of my modules during that degree was Business Law, which I found really fascinating and it spurred my interest to study Law. Also, getting an offer to study Law at the University of Oxford made the option to pursue law a more attractive prospect.”

On the performance of young lawyers at the 2015 bar examination, Emokiniovo said the percentage of failure has fallen from the 2014 Bar Finals results. As a way out of poor performance, she suggested that the solution should be “a joint effort from both students and the teaching staff. Smaller tutorial class sizes would ensure that students understand the concepts explained in lectures and give students an avenue to ask more questions. Also, students need to realise early-on that the Bar Final exams are different from University ones and re-adjust their reading strategy accordingly.”

Contrary to suggestion from some quarters, she said it would be unfair to ask new wigs without income to pay chambers for pupilage.

According to her, “new wigs serve as a breath of fresh air to law firms with their ideas on what the law should be and their savvy technical skills. Their contribution to the work force should not be understated.”

While agreeing that they need to learn the ropes from their seniors, she equally said that they should be adequately paid for their services.

“Even in the United Kingdom where we inherited some of our current practices, new wigs are paid during their pupilage and not the other way around.”

The young Akpedeye said young lawyers should be paid better. “Some firms pay as little as N20,000 a month to the young lawyers. In what state of the country can this suffice as a living wage?”she asked.

“The NBA has often talked about a minimum wage for lawyers. I believe this is something that should be taken very seriously as it doesn’t make sense for a person to spend six years or more training to become a lawyer only to be paid the same wage as a cleaner.”

Miss Akpedeye does not like living in her father’s shadows. “I do not really see my aspirations as being linked to my father. Yes, I come from a line of lawyers being the third generation of lawyers in my family but I am my own person.”

Asked where she sees herself in 10 years, she said: “I have aspirations to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, not because my father is an SAN but because, for me, that is the zenith of a legal career in Nigeria. I am an ambitious person and career satisfaction is very important to me. I will enjoy legal practice. The Bench would be restrictive.”

She sees the low number of women involved in advocacy as a personal issue. “I do not believe there is any accurate statistics on the number of men versus women in advocacy. I mean, even during my court attachment for the law school externship, there were many young female lawyers appearing in court and so I think the assertion of more men than women in advocacy is wrong.

“In terms of female empowerment, the legal industry is leading the way with many females becoming lawyers. In another 15-20 years, the tide will possibly change to elevating more females than males to the inner bar. By then, this unfounded assertion will be put to rest but for now, I can only say that it is untrue.”

Her graduation from the Law School marks the beginning of a new chapter in her professional pursuit. “I have become a lawyer and I am embarking on a new journey career-wise. Prior to this, my love for numbers and business led me to Economics and Management. As my mother is a Civil Engineer, everyone must love Mathematics in our household. A1 in WAEC Maths is a given or else don’t bother telling us your results.

“Also, my father has owned and managed his law firm and exposed me to the business world early on in life. Because of this family background, I found Economics to be intuitive and easy to understand.”

On her hobbies, she said: “In my personal life, I am the eldest of three children and the family holiday organiser. It is actually more difficult than it sounds since everyone in my family has such different ideas on what classifies as a good holiday experience.

“I am also a bit of a ‘gym freak’. I love my gym. Exercising allows me to relax when I am under pressure and gives me the clarity of mind to do great work. The best essays I wrote in University were generally after an intensive workout. I was at the gym everyday the week before the Bar Finals exam and it kept me calm and focused during the revision and exam period.’’

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