May 17, 2020

Life After Law School: Setting Up The Right Path As A Law Student | Okpi Bernard Adaafu, Esq. (LL.B,B.L, ACIarb, MCIMC)

                       

ABSTRACT

The topic ‘Life After Law School: Setting Up the Right Path as a Law Student’ is robust, thus raising the question of whether one is to dabble into limited or full discussion of lawyers’ post law school life ad infinitum. However, having special consideration to the spectators, it is sine qua none to limit the discussion to the immediate phase of lawyers’ post law school life. It is necessary to discuss the topic under the following sub-headings;

1.     Unsuccessful candidates

2.     Successful candidates

3.     New wig and National Youth Service

4.     Planning for the future

5.     Building relationships/setting the right path

6.     Living the expected life in future

 

1.   UNSUCCESSFUL CANDIDATES

We must accept the aphoristic statement that ‘Failure is not a topic, it is a reality’.  At least twenty per cent of candidates fail bar final examination annually. Suffice to say, not everyone that attends Law School comes out successful. Failure is the end product of one’s negligence to act promptly and reasonably. Failure at Law School is not measured by a candidate’s level of intellectual capacity. It is necessitated by plethora factors like shared ignorance, lackadaisical dispositions and natural phenomenon, inter alia.

It is pertinent to emphasize that Law School courses are divided into five i.e. Corporate Law Practice, Civil Litigation, Professional Ethics, Property Law Practice and Criminal Litigation. These courses carry equal marks and comprises of about twenty topics each. The examination is divided into multiple choice questions of hundred questions and theory. The theory comprises of six questions per course, question one and four are usually compulsory.  To pass successfully, a student must score at least 45 marks in all the courses. If a student fails one course he must go back to rewrite it and pass before he can be qualified for Call to Bar. If a student fails two or more courses he must rewrite all five courses before being Called to Bar. Thus a student that scored 80 marks in four courses and 44 marks in one course is disqualified from Call to Bar (see 2019 Law School marking scheme). Resit examination is usually conducted in April for those that failed bar final. Also a student will graduate with a pass if he makes A in four course and E in one course. Suffice to say, Law School uses the lowest grading system to assess students. Therefore, to pass, a student must be meticulous, dedicated, open-minded and disciplined. Law school is easier in terms of learning than the University, but the work load will exert your hippocampus to the extreme.

Peradventure, LIFE AFTER LAW SCHOOL sufficed indelible failure for the unsuccessful ones. Post Law School life has left some persons as Nigerian Law School notorious customers as they register for resit examination annually.  It is not about attending Law School but about your determination to come out successful. This interaction is timely for you to prepare ahead of time in order to avoid the reality of failing bar final. Life after Law School is full of regret and nightmare for this class of candidates resulting in suicide and ambition assassination. The only way to avoid the reality of failing bar final is to READ, READ AND READ.

2.   SUCCESSFUL CANDIDATES

No doubt the Call to Bar experience is one of the most important moment for a successful candidate, even though it comes with unavoidable stress for the celebrant. The pertinent question is what next? Some new wigs are from wealthy homes so their task is just to get the certificate and the stage is set for them to sail. Also certain set of new wigs will go ahead to take over the law practice business from their parents.  Few new wigs attended Law School to add the prefix “BARRISTER” to their names because they are wealthy and maybe old. However, average new wigs are the first lawyers in their family with no connection amidst impecuniosity. You will surely fall into one of these aforementioned categories.

Our focus will be on the later set of new wigs. These are the ones that will begin to think of the class A Law Firms for employment especially to earn good remuneration. Their problem will be compounded if they did not make at least Second Class Upper Division from the University and the Nigerian Law School. You need good result, good profile and good attitude to work in Class A Law Firms. However, the criteria can be abrogated if you have the right connection. Thus without connection you must be qualified and be prepared to write and pass test on areas unrelated to law (LSAT and GMAT) in order to get a big pay. Small and big firms may reject you not because you are not qualified but for lack of space. You may even turn down several job offers because of low wage.

You cannot be a wealthy lawyer in rural and suburban areas but you may start from there. Whether or not you want to work in a big firm, any new wig that is willing to go into full litigation must decide on suitable city to sojourn. Lagos and Kano are notorious cities for booming commercial and corporate practice while Abuja is a good city for estate management because it is a developing city. Port Harcourt is the best city for a new wig willing to specialize in Oil and Gas, Commercial and General Law Practice. Please do not return to your home town/village to start law practice except you want to be Father Christmas and obtain notoriety in pro bono while anticipating your reward in heaven. You will agree with me that coming out successful is not assurance for a better or successful life but an avenue to join the race for survival and excellence in the legal profession or elsewhere, personal development, finding the right spouse for those that are not married, bearing family burden, inter alia. Maybe you are creating beautiful imagination on how to be a wealthy lawyer after Call to Bar; such imaginations are like mirage because the closer you go, the farther it appears. You must be ready to accept disappointments, rejections and several No’s irrespective of the content of your resume but with patience and right work the Yes will come. NEVER GIVE UP because doing so will tantamount to ambition assassination.

3.     NEW WIG AND NATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE

After law school, some lawyers go for NYSC immediately. You maybe posted to a location you never anticipated. You may have a job offer in Lagos, NYSC may send you to Yobe. The state coordinator will appeal to your conscience to serve in Yobe and shun relocation to Lagos. Do not be tempted to listen to anybody apart from your inner voice. Only you know what you want and where you are going. Relocation is legal, redeploy to a state of your choice where accommodation, feeding, transportation and other necessaries would not empty your pocket and push you into avoidable debt and begging. I was posted to Ekiti State and my Primary Place of Assignment (PPA) was Ekiti State University. The University was not ready to provide accommodation and monthly stipends. After camping, almost all the lawyers relocated because no law firm in Ekiti was ready to pay corp members reasonable amount. I relocated to Abuja; it was difficult to find a firm because of late redeployment. If you must relocate do it within a reasonable time. Develop the culture of saving because after NYSC your firm may not retain you as other corp members will be waiting to take your seat. You need money while moving around to look for a firm. Save, save and save for the post NYSC days.

4.   PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE

After Law School, people will add the prefix ‘Barrister’ to your name but nothing will change about who you are. You must plan your life because failure to plan is suicidal to one’s ambition. I started planning to serve in Abuja while in the University. The end product of lack of planning is indecision, listen to me, ‘indecision is a diseases that can alter your ambition’. The right time to plan your life is now. The University’s environment is a simulation of the circular world. Do not make plans that are difficult to amend; your plans should be flexible. Also, plan for alternatives.

 

5. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Building good relationships is not the same thing as making friends and begging to be noticed by those in authorities.  Some people are annoying to you, same way you are a nuisance to others. Even supreme beings have enemies (God and Satan are not friends). However you cannot hate everyone. Avoid the temptation of confronting your haters at every slightest provocation. If you pray for your enemies to die, you may die first because you are someone’s enemy; who knows if they are making the same supplication against you. Forgiveness is a natural panacea for a happy living.

Notably, I am not a preacher; the rationale for the penultimate paragraph is predicated on my personal experience and the need to build a successful legal practice. You need people to become a wealthy lawyer and receive referral (be it client or job). Some persons in your class would not practice law but they may refer clients to you, some of them will be judges, others will become Governors, Senators, Professors, Head of Blue Chip Corporations, inter alia. The least intelligent person beside you may become the wealthiest in future. Being comfortable or coming from a wealthy background as a student does not mean you will be successful more than those poor and starving students in your class. Majority of our leaders today are not from wealthy homes for example read the profile of Professor Benedict Ayade, Atiku Abubakar, President Buhari etc. What I am saying is that, you should do all you can to avoid discrimination and be friendly with everyone because tomorrow is pregnant. There is no profession that reconnects people like the legal profession. The first personal client I handled was a referral from my friend; the second client was a cab driver I met casually. Remember to put a smiling face and associate with people at every given opportunity.

Whereas, I am not a marriage coach but it is important to let you know that as a single new wig the choice of marrying the right spouse is not less important. Life after law is not Nollywood where wealthy, handsome/beautiful spouse with good character will appear from nowhere for marriage. Dissolution of marriage is prevalent today because of material and physical consideration as factors for building marital life as against good character and understanding. After participating in several dissolution proceedings, I started praying against the evil of choosing the wrong spouse. One of the best environments to meet the right spouse is the University. Please hold unto good relationships and build your castles upon them. Remember always that OBA says 'everyone matters, you must avoid pride and relate with people genuinely’.

 

6. LIVING THE EXPECTED LIFE IN FUTURE

Life can never get easy, it can only get better. The older you grow the tougher life becomes. Living a fulfilled life is not dependent on how many cars, houses and children a person has. We all have different dreams but we need each other to achieve those dreams.  Like I said earlier, the University's environment is a simulation of the circular world.  Thus, if you want to join circular politics, how are you participating in student's politics without jeopardizing your studies? If you want to become an academia how well are you reading and planning for further studies? If you want to be a judge in future then join the judiciary in school and start learning something. If you want to be the best academically then stop sleeping and deal with the evil of procrastination. No body can inspire you more than yourself. After occupying offices as a student leader, I almost gave up my circular political ambition because the stress was beyond my imagination. If you have positive ambition, you need sacrifice and determination to achieve it.  Ask questions and seek direction from the right people. You can achieve your dreams at any stage, notwithstanding your current position in life, for instance, becoming the best student, occupying the political offices of your dreams within the university, meeting the right spouse and building good relationship with the future leaders in your class, department, faculty, within and without the University. THE BETTER TIME FOR YOU TO PLAN FOR THE FUTURE STARTS NOW, BECAUSE YOUR NOW IS THE FOUNDATION OF YOUR TOMORROW.

 

CONCLUSION

Life after law school is complicated, but you can find your way with proper planning. When things are hard and every opportunity appears to be closed, all you need to do is to remember that there is always an alternative in all situations. The alternative for thinking about giving up/suicide after failing a course or failing bar finals is to go back and do it better, the alternative for rejection is to work for acceptance, the alternative for graduating with bad result is to proceed to post graduate diploma, the alternative for abusive relationship is to quit, the alternative for parasitic relationship is to confront the parasite, the alternative for greater performance lies in self development, optimism and meeting the right people. There is always an option where there seems to be none just look closer. My principal in his early years of practice received CORN AND PEAR as consideration but he persisted and later became a Commissioner in Cross River State, Attorney General of the Federation, and Nigerian Legal Adviser to the United Nations. He established the EFCC and ICPC, today he a handles almost all the juicy briefs in Nigeria. Always remember the story of my principal Chief Kanu Godwin Agabi SAN, CON. The early years of practice may not be good, but the later days shall be fruitful. The legal profession is the best profession on earth, do not allow anyone discourage you from becoming an ENDURING AND EXCELLENT LEGAL PRACTITIONER.

 

You can contact the writer via:

Twitter @OkpiBernard

Email: okpibernardadaafu@gmail.com

Phone: +234709032116272


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