Templars’ Senior Partner and immediate past chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association – Section on Business Law (NBA-SBL), Mr. Olumide Akpata, is a leading voice among established lawyers who are committed to defining a clear and broader career path for young lawyers in Nigeria.
Every year, thousands of lawyers are admitted to the Nigerian bar with little or no knowledge about the variety of career paths in the profession. At best, a majority of the practicing lawyers believe that litigation is the only pathway for lawyers, without having any meaningful clue regarding the diverse opportunities that lawyers could tap into. This misconception has exercebated unemployment and underemployment, as many lawyers are forced to pursue career paths that are entirely unrelated to law in order to make ends meet.
Mr. Akpata believes in changing this narrative by constantly engaging young lawyers and creating awareness on the endless opportunities in the legal profession. His message remains simple and direct: young lawyers must be given the required support and guidance to navigate through the wide spectrum of legal practice. In his words, “[y]oung lawyers must take capacity-building very seriously. This is why I have made it my primary responsibility to be a part of the process. I believe that lawyers must be ready for the dynamics of the legal profession. Disruptive technology is reshaping the legal profession; digital economy is on the rise and buzzwords like artificial intelligence, fintech, internet of things, blockchain and the rest are fast becoming familiar terms in the delivery of legal services. Therefore, lawyers must take commercial awareness very seriously in order to leverage on the opportunities in Nigeria’s emerging legal market.”
Mr. Akpata also believes in reorganising legal practice in Nigeria to make it more attractive and profitable. According to him, “the Nigerian bar is one of the largest in the world in terms of population. We have a very large economy and at a time where legal practice is becoming global with increasing cross-border transactions, there is no reason why Nigerian lawyers (young lawyers especially) should fail to position ourselves strategically to have a share of the global legal market. In view of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACfTA) which was recently signed, the NBA must articulate a clear position in terms of policy and regulations that will enable us leverage on ACfTA. Most young lawyers are not aware of these developments and I have decided to take it up as my responsibility to engage young lawyers in this regard.”
As part of that ongoing engagement with young lawyers, Mr. Akpata devoted yesterday, 13 December, to speaking to, and with, young lawyers across the country. He gave a keynote speech at the NBA Young Lawyers Forum (YLF) Summit that held at Owerri, Imo State. He also spoke at other NBA-YLF events that held concurrently at Benin, Edo State and Gombe, Gombe State. Amongst other things, these outings focused on preparing young lawyers for the future by identifying the challenges young lawyers face and providing the requisite guidance through capacity-building or mentorship.
At the Benin event, Mr Akpata was represented by another Templars’ Parther, Mr. Godwin Omoaka, S.A.N., whilst Mr. Melah Yussuf represented him at the Gombe event.
Both Mr Omoaka, S.A.N. and Mr Melah Yussuf spoke on the very interesting future ahead for young lawyers if they explore the vast opportunities in the legal profession which go way beyond the traditional litigation.
Their messages on Mr Akpata’s behalf resonate with the aspirations of every young lawyer in Nigeria. And some of the attendees at these NBA-YLF events used this medium to call on the NBA and other senior lawyers with the requisite experience to complement Mr Akpata’s drive.
According to Mr. Elehibiri Oweiware, a member of the NBA-YLF, the NBA must drive a new process that will restructure the legal profession by making it more attractive and profitable.
In their respective reactions, the leadership of the YLF at Benin, Owerri and Gombe thanked Mr. Akpata for devoting the whole day to the YLF cause and commended him for being exemplary during his tenure as chairman of the NBA-SBL.