*Your goal must be specific, attainable, ultimate smart and timeous—Prof Ojukwu
*Success is a journey not a destination— Soyebo, SAN
*Networking is an exciting journey to expand your career— Shekarau
*Consider a career in transactional practice— Ikongbeh
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Hon. Justice J. T. Tsoho, Senior Advocates of Nigeria Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, (Teacher), J-K Gadaama, SAN, Mrs Olabisi Soyebo, SAN, Mrs. Hauwa Shekarau and Marx Ikongbeh have expressed their views that there cannot be success without hard work and for a young lawyer to succeed, such a person must have passion and determination for whatever area of practice he decides to venture into.
They made these assertions at the 5th Hon. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC (rtd) Professional Training and Mentorship Programme for Young Lawyers held on Saturday, 4th July, at J-K Gadzama Court, Abuja.
Former Director, Nigerian Law School, Prof. Ernest Ojukwu, SAN, (Teacher) who spoke on the topic “Building Blocks for Career Growth in Legal Practice” said that for one to be successful such a person must set a goal as a young lawyer.
“There is nothing wrong with being called to be bar and yet you choose not to practice as a lawyer, the only thing that will make you a successful person on earth will be passion and goal.
“The skills, competence you acquired as a law student will still be useful if you channel them to other businesses and profession,” he said.
Speaking further, he said that most successful lawyers are those who have set goals and have worked through in achieving them.
“There are steps to take to reach life goals. If you walk through life with vague notions of success and accomplishment you might never discover that, what others have defined as happiness, security and fulfilment.
“To be successful you need to set meaningful goals and directions. Constantly remind and re-assess these goals. Share it with your mentor, or boss to be sure it is what you want and then get committed to doing it. You most have long term vision, short term and then motivation.
“You must have self-control and discipline which has to do with everything about your skill and competence. It must also include how you utilize your time. All these are part of what you need for your career building block.
“For career building block as a lawyer, you must have certain skills which include good advocacy skills, analytical and research skills, Mediation and Negotiation skills. Fill in the gaps you have discovered about the skills you don’t have.
“Your goal must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, ultimate smart and timeous,” Teacher added.
He urged young lawyers to get mentors as there are many senior lawyers who are willing and available to assist. He also encouraged them to attend mentoring programs, like the Hon. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC Professional Training and Mentorship Programme for Young Lawyers organized by J.K Gadzama LLP and to distinguish themselves from the crowd. He also encouraged young lawyers to engage in pro-bono cases to gain more experience.
The second speaker and a seasoned female Silk, Mrs Olabisi Soyebo, SAN, Partner Abdullahi Ibrahim & Co., started by saying that success is a journey not a destination and that there are no secret to success, it is a result of preparation and hardwork
According to her, successful legal practice is not about Naira or Dollar rather it entails a lot more.
She made this remark while speaking on the topic “Secrets for a Successful Legal Practice “. She said for anyone to be successful he must be consistent and that success depends only not how good you are as a lawyer but include how well you project, position and reposition yourself and how well you can attract valuable clients.
“The practice of law spans in a very wide terrain and all you need is to make a choice in what area you have passion for.
“The realities of today is that inflow of client and fund are getting slimmer, files are getting fewer, however, there are lots of competition amongst lawyers and law firms. The good news is that there are lawyers out there who are doing well and for you to be one of the successful lawyers you must be passionate for law.
“It should not be a means to an end. It is your passion that will drive the quality of the result that will emanate from your input,” she said.
Speaking on the topic she outlined the qualities and the things you must do as a young lawyer to be successful.
She said that Integrity is important for every successful lawyer. “You must be known for your integrity it matters a lot and do not compromise it. In most occasion it will speak for you even both in the profession and the society at large”
“Honesty builds up your client confidence in you, stick by the truth and give honest advice.”
“You must be ready to put in your hard work otherwise the success you are looking for will certainly elude. Punctuality will also show in your hand work. Pay attention to details, be focus, give in your time and learn from your mistakes. The way you do your work portrays the kind of person you are”
“Nurture the relationship you have with your clients, especially the old clients. Observe the way your head of chambers relates with them. Get to know their business because that is when to advice them better. Treat them with dignity and respect. You don’t have to take all clients no matter how attractive they might be. Attract only valuable ones to yourself so that you don’t get into trouble,” she said.
She also emphasized on the importance of continuous learning and why you should expand your scope of knowledge. She further added that it is not only by reading law reports but attending seminars, workshops, conferences and read other books that will add value. She also urged lawyers to implore the use of technology in their various areas of practice as that is where the world is going.
Mentorship and pupilage was another area she admonished young lawyers to explore, noting that lack of pupilage can be a recipe for trouble and that they should make all the mistakes to learn from your seniors.
She also encouraged lawyers to strike a balance between work personal life. Noting that health and family is a very important aspect of one’s life and that, should not be compromised or neglected. There is no secret to success, it is a result of preparation and hard work.
Mrs. Hauwa Shekarau, Chairman, NBA Abuja Branch who spoke on the topic “Leveraging Professional Networks in Legal Practice, said that professional network is not what you know it is who you know. She said for you to make the kind of impact you want in your practice, it centers around who you know.
”Networking is starting a conversation without destination in mind. It is deliberate and you don’t need to stick with the people you already know, you need to look out for people you never met before.
“It is important you take a deliberate and conscientious action when you are networking,” she said.
Speaking on how lawyers can leverage on networking in their legal practice, she said lawyers should identify with a professional body as well as some social groups.
“There are so many associations, groups, body local and international like PALU, ICMC, IBA, others. It is this kind of fora that you can network and have connection with lawyers who are in other jurisdictions.
“You must be authentic, honest about yourself and what you want. Volunteer your services. The legal community is filled with generous people who are happy to share their expertise with you, seek them through networking.
“Networking is an exciting journey to expand your career. Meet like-minded people and build your professional career. It is never too soon to start or too good to stop, the effort you put in pays well.” She added,
In another development, Marx Ikongbeh the Principal of Everlaw Associates spoke on the topic: Navigating the Corporate Law Terrain-Tips for Young Lawyers. He started by countering the notion that corporate law practice refers to the opposite of litigation or dispute resolution practice. He defined corporate law practice to refer in the strict sense to the laws and regulations governing corporations and how they are administered under law.
He stressed that a better way to refer to such practices is to call it non-contentious work or transactional practice. Other less ideal alternatives include: commercial or business law, office practice or solicitors work.
Next, he led the session to compare disputes practice to transactional practice, the participants were able to identify some dissimilarities between the 2 including the fact that a transactional lawyer typically acts before the fact while the disputes lawyer is called upon after the fact when issues might have arisen. Also, he considered that a disputes practice is usually a zero-sum (win-lose) game while the transactional lawyer usually plays a positive-sum (win-win) game.
He also cited a 2015 Thompson Reuters report indicating that transactional practices are currently on the rise and enjoying an ascendancy over disputes based practices and highlighted how in prestige, earnings and visibility, transactional practices are becoming better placed in Nigeria than they were a few years ago.
He also took time out to draw participants’ attention to some opportunities and threats that transactional practices face. The opportunities include a transactional lawyer’s ability to create his own market as the rules against champerty are less stringent in the transactional practice terrain. One striking threat is external competition from other professions including the big 4 accounting firms: Ernst & Young, PWC, Deloitte, and KPMG.
He also explored the vital skillsets for a successful transactional practice career and broke down selected transactional practice areas such as Corporate law, Finance and Investment Law, Taxation, TMT(Technology, Media, and telecoms), Intellectual Property, Wealth Management amongst others.
Besides, he led the participants in a practical session on how to spot trends and position themselves for the most promising areas of transactional practice. Some of the areas he predicted to see significant growth in transactional practice include: anti-trust/competition law due to the passing of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Act, taxation law as the government’s oil earnings decline, trade law as a consequence of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
He also surmised that the arrest of the flamboyant Instagram celebrity Hushpuppi may also spark off the interest of owners of luxury branded goods in Nigerian and lead to renewed activity in trademark protection and anti-counterfeiting activities in the Nigerian market along with intellectual property licensing, franchising, offshoring, and distributorships.
He ended by encouraging the participants to consider a career in transactional practice.
The chairman of the event, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Hon. Justice J. T. Tsoho, said that for one to achieve it must be earned and that it comes with hard work and setting realistic and meaningful goal. He urged the young lawyers present to make good use of the program stating that the prospect for the program is broad. He also applauded the host, J-K Gadazama for creating such a platform for young lawyers.
Chief J-K Gadazam, SAN, while welcoming the participants said Hon. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC (rtd) Professional Training and Mentorship Programme for Young Lawyers, is an annual event aimed at installing value in the minds of young lawyers, sharpening their lawyering skills, strengthening output and fine-tuning etiquette towards attaining the highest standard of legal practice in Nigeria.
He also emphasized on the need for networking which he said is very crucial for the profession. He further said that a crucial key to any successful practice is professional networking, however, he noted that there are some factors militating against their practice.