delivered at the Legal Marathon Summit, 2017

Awolowo University

November, 2017.

On Friday, 13th
October, 2017, I was invited by Global International College, a secondary
school located in Lekki, Lagos, to speak to the students at their University
and Career Fair day.  As a lawyer, I was
particularly to address students who desired a career in law on the
profitability and fulfillment of having a legal career.

The Career Fair had picked
up on an interesting note but there was a sudden turn of events when another
speaker, who happened to one of the administrators of the school, expressly
advised the students not to study law. The scenario was further compounded when
the speaker asked me,  “how much a young
lawyer just out of law school would reasonably earn?” and I responded “between
Eighty to Hundred Thousand Naira”. My response added fuel to the fire and the
speaker went further to paint a picture of penury and doom for any of the
students who chose to study law. I suddenly felt the need to defend my
profession and I did so accordingly for
profession is so wide that everyone can succeed.  

However, since that day, I
have continued to ask myself;

1.    How can a young lawyer make his
practice stand out enough to attract the needed compensation?
2.   How could the new set
of emerging lawyers break new grounds in the legal profession?
3.   How could young lawyers
participate and excel in the current political climate? 
4.  How
could a young lawyer, participate in the global economy while acting locally
within the territorial borders of our nation?

I shall be providing
answers to these questions and if you are a good listener and above all can
apply creative thinking, you will discover how best to navigate your path in
the legal profession and your exclusive role in the political and economic
development of our country, our continent and the world.
Question 1;
can a young lawyer make his practice stand out enough to attract the needed

In the words of F. Lee
Bailey, author of ‘To be a Trial Lawyer”, “A lawyer’s education is far too
important to be left entirely to law schools. No school, regardless of how good
it may be, is capable of teaching the potential lawyer all there is to know
about the profession and business of law”. No law school graduate should regard
his or her legal education as complete unless he or she has begun to develop
skills of advocacy, legal drafting, legal research and negotiation.

Many of you want to be
revered like many senior lawyers, some of which you will have the opportunity
to listen to during this Legal Marathon Summit. The recipe for becoming an outstanding
lawyer is not beyond your grasp, neither is it too far-fetched. To be
successful, it takes a conscious, consistent and continuous resolve at self – development.
A lawyer must garner the requisite knowledge and skill and keep abreast of
changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks
associated with relevant technology and engage in continuing study and
education. More importantly, a lawyer must be excellent in all things and at
all times.

Also, success in your
legal career is all based on the measuring stick you use.  If it’s
financial reward, you may never feel you’ve achieved success or if you do, it’s
fleeting.  If your measuring stick is how much you help pull others up and
lend a hand, you may reach success at a young age and never lose grasp of
it. My advice is don’t chase the money.  Chase the best lawyer in the
practice area you want to pursue and go work for him or her even if you can
make more elsewhere.  You will more than make up for that
compensation over your career by learning from the best. 

A competent lawyer must
possess great communication skills (oral and written), the ability to explain,
analytical skills, problem-solving and attention to detail. Management skills
also rank very highly. Like the former Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA)
President, Boma Ozobia has said, “You must have specific skills of fluency in
both written and spoken English, appreciate and analyse issues and  above
all must appear very clean at all times.”

Every lawyer no matter how
brilliant and smart must at all times bear in mind the strict rules of
professional conduct for Nigerian lawyers and lawyers everywhere. A high regard
for ethical standards and rules of professional conduct is an absolute
necessity for success in the legal profession. The legal profession places a
high premium on integrity, honesty, decency, dedication and discipline all over
the world. A successful lawyer must always represent the high moral values and
discipline which distinguishes lawyers in the society.

Question 2
could the new set of emerging lawyers break new grounds in the legal
In other to break new
grounds in the practice of law,
lawyers must embrace new areas of law or less developed areas of law as Legal
practice in Nigeria is still in the 3rd world. For instance, young lawyers can
concentrate on areas of law such as Telecoms, Cyberlaw, ADR and Intellectual
Property.  Young Nigerian lawyers need to
be more creative, enterprising, and industrious. As lawyers, our orientation
should enable you open your minds to new learning and opportunities, not make you
learned robots. Young lawyers should embrace Internet technology as the Internet
provides boundless opportunities for professional development. Young lawyers
must open their minds to new ways of doing things and take the lead in
Question 3;
could young lawyers participate and excel in the current political climate
Lawyers play a very unique
role in the protection of the rule of law. Lawyers by virtue of our status,
have unique obligations to support law reform enhancing individual rights and
open, representative government. In modern democracy, lawyers are specially
competent and inclined to promote these values. Lawyers are usually sensitive
to process concerns and help to create a climate in which democracy can
flourish. However, the above in itself does not guarantee that a lawyer who is
an administrator would generally support progressive ideals.

As a lawyer, I am inspired
by the contributions of lawyers in Nigerian History, starting with Founding
Fathers including Chief Obafemi Awolowo,
Sir Adeyemo Alakija and Samuel Ládòkè Akínt́lá to
mention a few. Other lawyer heroes include the likes of Chief Gani Fawehinmi
SAN and Bola Ige SAN.  

a democratic society like ours, lawyers play a vital role as the custodian of
justice. The conscience of the people and a bridge between the government and
its people. Alexis De Tocqueville once stated that “When one visits
Americans and when one studies their laws, one sees that the authority they
have given to lawyers, and the influence they have allowed them to have in the
government, form the most powerful barrier today against the lapses of
democracy”. The above quote shows the vital role lawyers have played in
developing and nurturing the United States of America.However, in recent times,
not many Nigerian lawyers have been at the forefront of promoting democratic
values and revolutions.

doubt, Nigeria is experiencing pretty interesting times. Corruption has finally
reached epic proportions as stolen loot is now usually calculated in billions
of naira and dollars. Terrorism is threatening from the North-East, the
protection of human rights are not issues on the front burner, the rule of law
is not sacrosanct and there is a major lack of enforcement of legal rules,
regulations and procedures. There is a complete lack of accountability in
government and the moral fabric of society itself is falling apart at its
However, in order to be
particularly involved in Nigerian politics, young lawyers must now determine to
be lawyer-activist and honourable lawyer statesmen. There are lots of political
opportunities for young lawyers and you are the mechanics of the Nigerian Legal

To be politically
relevant, you must understand that as a lawyer you are part of the fabric of the
constitution, so why not become part of the fabric of your community as well.
Society has created many
rules and regulations for the co-existence of mankind and it is also the role
of lawyers to interpret these rules to society.

A very good way to begin
is not only by joining a political party, but by participating in community
organizing because to get things done, you need to mobilize people in a collaborative
way. Community organising is
the work of building relationships and networks in communities to activate people and create social and
political change through collective action.

is important that the advocates’ skills be used not only to gain benefits for
those communities but also to consciously build organizational power and
community leadership.

True sustainable change
comes only from building large-scale, democratic organizations focused on
building the power and conscious leadership of poor and working people.
community participation provides access points for new emerging community
leaders to develop their experience, confidence and skills, thereby building
community capacity, which increases voluntary action through “people power” and
insures greater sustainability and staying power due to the increased
commitment and follow through by community members.

Essentially, citizen
participation builds social capital while
connections among individual community members by strengthening social ties,
relations, and networks.

1985, freshly graduated from Columbia University and working for a New York
business consultant, Barack Obama decided to become a community
organizer. Today, he has served as the 2 – term President of the United
States of America.

I don’t think I have
always wanted to be a lawyer  but I was
destined to be one, I remember my father once asked me if I wanted to be a
lawyer or a business man when I kept brimming with business ideas. I also
remember in primary school, I was less than 5 years old and we were having a
costume party at school, I adorned the lawyer’s wig and gown and sang the words
“I am a lawyer in my country and everybody knows me well”. Maybe an angel was
flying by that day and decided to grant me my wish because I am now a lawyer in
my country, Nigeria. However, as I grew to understand my role and
responsibility in the larger society, I knew it was my duty as a lawyer to use
my services to make my country and the world at large a better place.

Hence, I and my friend,
Temitope Atiba, who is currently the Senior Legislative Aid to Senator Gbenga
Ashafa at the National Assembly, started a Facebook group in 2010 called
“Nigerian Youth Development Initiative”, a group which quickly became popular
due to our constant advocacy for the rights of the common Nigerian. After
sometime, I felt the group was not having its required effect in promoting
social change the way we deemed fit, I realized the problem was that I was one
of the few who knew the quantum of legal rights available to all Nigerians and
the common ignorance of the law prevented my message from being heard. So I set
out to create what is today known as Legalnaija, the Nigerian Blawg that has
contributed significantly to the education of Nigerians on their legal rights
and obligations under the law.  Legalnaija currently has over 1.5 Million
views and thousands of followers across all social media platforms.

At Legalnaija, we believe
in the promotion of justice and equality for all Nigerians, regardless of
status or origins and we look forward to a society where every Nigerian can
equally get justice without needing to have money to hire the most expensive
Senior Advocate as legal representation.
I humbly urge you to
become one of the lawyers that would catapault our legal and political system,
so we may take our rightful place among the comity of Nations.  
Question 4
can a young lawyer, participate in the global economy while acting locally
within the territorial bounds of our nation?
Young lawyers in legal
practice must venture beyond usual borders in order to succeed in business. In
the words of Chief Arthur Obi Okafor (SAN), “There is increased demand
for specialisations in areas of practice in the global legal services sector
that requires multidisciplinary skills, for instance a decent knowledge of
accounting and finance in order to have a basic understanding of corporate
governance issues etc”.
is increasingly becoming multidisciplinary in nature and as a lawyer, you will
be required to understand many socio-political issues, and happenings in other
areas such as oil and gas, capital market etc. Furthermore, as a young lawyer,
you must improve on your business skill and not legal skill alone. This is the
effect of globalisation on legal practice.

The reality is therefore
that a lawyer should continuously pursue skills in related fields to remain
relevant and employable in today’s rather overpopulated legal landscape.”
knowledge and proficiency
in ICT is also a mandatory requirement in the 21st century legal marketplace.

The global legal market is
currently on siege by very aggressive tech disruption and a Nigerian lawyer and
indeed any lawyer anywhere in the world must therefore be abreast of latest
developments in ICT as it is a requirement for effective use of ICT systems and

To succeed globally, the
best way to make yourself valuable is to solve problems and find innovative
solutions to legal problems that you encounter in your chosen area of practice.

A lawyer is a better asset
to himself and society if he can demonstrate excellent skills in a niche within
the profession. It makes you significantly more valuable and gives you
potential to attract more clients. If you are known as a specialist in a
particular area, for instance; medical negligence cases, your value will
greatly increase.

I hope that from the
above, you have garnered the required knowledge to take your legal and
political career to the heights reserved strictly for the greats and I wish for
someone in this hall today, that your career will be what legends are made of.

Thank you.

Adedunmade Onibokun
Oniboun & Co.