Legalpreneur’s Spotlight – Adedunmade Onibokun, Founding Partner at Adedunmade Onibokun & Co

Editor’s note – we are happy to introduce a series we have tagged “Legalpreneur’s Spotlight”. As part of this series, we will be interviewing successful young lawyers who took a bold step to leave practice and set up their own law firms (i.e. to become entrepreneurs in the legal industry). They will be sharing valuable lessons from their experience for those who might be considering a similar move. For the third part of the series, we interview Adedunmade Onibokun who founded Adedunmade Onibokun & Co, a fast-growing law firm based in Lagos.

Why did you decide to venture out on your own?

Adedunmade: I had always known that I would set up my practice. Shortly after I finished Law School, I registered my law firm but went ahead to undergo tutelage in other firms before setting out to practice on my own.

When were you ready? How did you know?

Adedunmade: I was not ready until after five years of practice. I just knew within myself that it was time.

How did you prepare for your transition into the “legalpreneurship” life??

Adedunmade: I mentally prepared myself by speaking to colleagues and seniors who had also established their practice so that I could learn from their experiences and better prepare for my exit. I was able to rent a small office space and just barely furnish it.

Which was your preference – partnership or sole proprietorship?

Adedunmade: I chose to go solo.

What was your funding experience?

Adedunmade: To be honest, funding was tough and for the first few months. Without the buffer a steady salary offered, it was not easy to adjust. I started small and decided not to bite more than I could chew. I played every role, from acting as a cleaner to litigation officer to the managing partner.

How did you manage your initial costs?

Adedunmade: A lot came from my savings and I had to manage my costs by cutting my cloth according to the available material.

Do you have a physical office? If so, what influenced your choice of office location?

Adedunmade: I chose to have a physical office because many clients are more comfortable knowing their counsel has an office space. Regarding location, I wanted a place not too far from my home to reduce the time I spent commuting to the office.

How did you put together a team?

Adedunmade: My first team member was a secretary who played multiple roles in the office. I was later able to employ a young lawyer who was participating in the NYSC programme.

How did you win your first client(s)?

Adedunmade: My very first client came from an Instagram message on a Sunday. The client had been following my law-related posts and asked me to come for a meeting the following Monday. Thinking back, I undercharged for the service but at the time, the fee I was offered was the highest professional fee I had ever earned.

How did you market your firm especially seeing that the legal industry can seem so saturated?

Adedunmade: I was able to leverage on social media to position myself as a lawyer that clients could count on. My posts educated readers on various aspects of the law and I was able to win clients from there.

How did you establish your name/brand?

Adedunmade: Through hard work and consistency.

We are told that being an entrepreneur means having your own time – would you say your quality of life has improved since you went solo?

Adedunmade: Entrepreneurship does not mean you have more time but it allows you the opportunity to manage your time. Generally, you spend more time at work knowing your input largely determines how successful you become. Regarding the quality of life, I still work late and spend more time at the office than my team. I practically go to work almost every day.

At what point did you begin to feel that this was indeed a sustainable venture?

Adedunmade: For me, this would be when I was able to land my first major client.

Tell us two things that you were not prepared for?

Adedunmade: Both of them are regarding staffing. First, recruiting competent people and then being able to manage staff.

Tell us about your worst day in private practice?

Adedunmade: We had made an error and the client was not too happy. I was not pleased either, but it taught me a lesson to make sure I always paid attention to all the small details.

How do you balance practice administration/management with the practice of law?

Adedunmade: I am still getting better at this daily. It is not easy to network, source for briefs, manage the firm, carry out research and also have the time to draft processes.

What is the place of mentoring in setting up and running your own practice?

Adedunmade: Mentoring plays a major role as it allows you to learn from the experience and guidance of others who have gone before you. Mentors also help you focus.

 How has the journey been so far?

Adedunmade: In one word, amazing! But it can certainly get better.

What is your biggest piece of advice for young lawyers looking to set up their own law firms?

Adedunmade: Take your time to learn and get pupillage. Be hardworking and don’t give up.

Adedunmade Onibokun is a Lawyer, Blogger and Author, whose legal practice focuses on Corporate Commercial Law. He is the Managing Partner at Adedunmade Onibokun& Co.

Adedunmade is internationally recognized for his legal advocacy work via The LegalnaijaBlawg; www.legalnaija.com.  His book, Legal Rights and Obligations Under Nigerian Law, educates its reader on Nigerian laws and legal obligations.

Adedunmade has contributed several articles to both local and international journals and also appears regularly on various media platforms as a regular analyst on national issues. Adedunmade has represented a varying degree of clients in several matters before different courts, arbitration panels and election tribunals in Nigeria.

At the 2018, Nigerian Legal Awards, Adedunmade was shortlisted as a finalist for the 40 under 40 Rising Star Award Category for his contributions to the development of law and business in Nigeria.

 

legallyengagedLegalpreneur’s Spotlight – Adedunmade Onibokun, Founding Partner at Adedunmade Onibokun & Co
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The Fundamentals of Writing Award-Winning Essays

We live in an era where industry experts and institutions are not only interested in spurring the personal development of undergraduate students, but also in hearing their views on important matters. One of the ways this is done is through essay competitions.

There are several essay competitions out there that students can get involved in. The best thing about doing this is that not only do you get to research and write on topical issues, but there are more often than not, cash prizes for the winners.

Although these writing opportunities are ones which law students can take advantage of, there are often problems encountered by law students. These problems include the inability to make proper research, inability to connect ideas, paragraphing, not being able to distinguish your essay, among several others. However, while it may be said that no one holds the exact key to writing an award-winning essay, it goes without saying that there are certain fundamentals which need to be learnt if you are to produce one. What then determines if you win is your mastery of these fundamentals.

Research Skills

If you intend to write an award-winning essay, then you must have very good research skills. Research is to writing what oxygen is to the human body – it gives life. What research does is to augment the level of knowledge and exposure you have on a particular subject matter. It moves you from the green area to a somewhat authoritative arena. Your examiners, when marking the entries for the competition, are not looking for surface-level analysis of the topic, neither are they interested in reading the very set of things that hit your mind when you see the topic. What they are looking out for is an advanced and deeper level of thinking, and this comes down to the quality of research that has been carried out.

In doing proper research, you have to learn how to use your search engines well. This will prevent a situation whereby you access and perhaps regurgitate the same information as almost every other person who enters the competition.

You have to do a personal analysis of the topic first. It is during this process that you highlight why the topic deserves to be written on, the factors that have brought the society to that point, the effects of the subject matter in consideration and then you can list out possible solutions on the way forward. For instance, assuming you are asked to write on “Creative solutions to the problem of unemployment in Nigeria,” instead of rushing to Google and searching on creative solutions to the problem of unemployment in Nigeria, what you would do is first of all, break up the topic into the sub-topics listed above and then proceed to Google these sub-topics, which in this instance may be, “causes of unemployment in Nigeria.” This way, you have a clear view of the problem thereby making it easier to get the solution. Essentially, knowing what to research is fundamental to carrying out quality research in the first place. It not only helps you to narrow down your research, but it also gives you a proper understanding of what you are writing on.

Paragraphing

When you have analysed the topic and you have done your research, the next step in the process is writing. This is where paragraphing and arrangement of ideas set in.

At some point, you must have heard some definitions of a paragraph. Several times, paragraphs are defined with regards to length. Some would say a particular number of sentences make up a paragraph while others may argue that it may be as long as half a page.

However, when writing today, all those definitions are mere technicalities that you hardly need to bother with. The true idea of a paragraph is embedded in the idea it carries and more importantly,  the logical progression and coherence of that idea.

Paragraphs are to essays what building blocks are to a building – they provide support. They give meaning to your sentences and also give it a structure that helps your readers understand.

When you look at your paragraph, see it as a guide which you can use to lead your readers by the hand. Having a sound knowledge of paragraphing is, in fact, half of writing an essay. This is because no matter the number of documents you have consumed while doing your research or the ideas you have acquired while brainstorming, if you do not know how to pass it onto your readers effectively, they will not be able to properly receive it. After all, if you do not give them, how will they take it?

In constructing your paragraph, a topic sentence is the first building block. And more often than not, a topic sentence works the way I started this paragraph itself – by introducing the concept that you intend to talk about. The idea of topic sentence emanated from how human psychology works. Once we see something, it becomes easier to identify with it going further. Topic sentence helps eliminate the burden of the reader wondering what the writer is talking about and instead informs you of what the writer intends to discuss.

The secret to having a sound paragraph is to make sure there is an “unfolding”. Unfolding is the sequence you get when you know your paragraph is moving in ascension – introduction, explanation, solution, and conclusion. Let us assume we are writing a paragraph to solve a problem. Start your paragraph with an introduction of the problem otherwise known as the topic sentence, then move to an explanation of the problem. It is during the explanation that you discuss what has led to the problem, the effects of the problem and why the problem needs to be solved. Following this, you list the solutions you have brought and discuss they will be implemented. Then, you conclude your paragraph. The essence of this conclusion just like the topic sentence is to enable the examiner immediately connect with your topic sentence.

Finally, use nice paragraph starters and proper transitioning words. Ensure that your paragraph does not just contain independent sentences or sentences that stand as though they are fighting one another. Create a very beautiful nexus between your sentences such that the flow of your paragraph becomes effortless and this is only possible when you have transitioning words in your paragraph. By doing all we have discussed, you would have created a nicely sandwiched essay for your examiner. And trust me, you don’t taste a nice sandwich and not nod your head in praise and satisfaction.


Habeeb Asudemade is a 400L law student and an award-winning writer with interests in Law, Leadership, Business and Community Service. He is a 2019 Nigeria Higher Education Foundation (NHEF) scholar who has interned with corporate law firms in Nigeria.

In 2018, he was selected to represent his University at the Impact Africa Intercontinental British Parliamentary Debate Championship in Kumasi, Ghana where the University placed first runner-up. Also, in 2019, he was selected to represent his University at the John H Jackson European Law Students Association Moot Court Competition on World Trade Organization Law in Nairobi, Kenya.

He is also a co-founder and business development head of Tell! – a content development company and an alumnus of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program.

 

legallyengagedThe Fundamentals of Writing Award-Winning Essays
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Legalpreneur’s Spotlight – Adeleke Alex-Adedipe, Founding Partner at Duale, Ovia & Alex-Adedipe

“Editor’s note – we are happy to introduce a series we have tagged “Legalpreneur’s Spotlight”. As part of this series, we will be interviewing successful young lawyers who took a bold step to leave practice and set up their own law firms (i.e. to become entrepreneurs in the legal industry). They will be sharing valuable lessons from their experience for those who might be considering a similar move. For the second part of the series, we interview Adeleke Alex-Adedipe who co-founded Duale, Ovia and Alex-Adedipe, a fast-growing law firm based in Lagos.

Why did you decide to venture out on your own?

Adeleke: My decision to set up a firm of my own had always been part of my career plan. The only thing I was not sure of was when the time would be right but I always knew the day was coming.

When and how did you know that you were ready?

Adeleke: I have come to realise that there is never a perfect moment for such a decision. I believe that the moment you set out is the perfect one. Not to say that this journey does not come with some preparation, that is, emotionally, financially, psychologically and mentally.

How did you prepare for your transition into the “legalpreneurship” life?

Adeleke: Like I mentioned earlier, I always knew the day would come and so every move and direction was in anticipation of this journey. However, I had an active 6 months of full preparation where all the stones where turned and I ensured I was on the right track for this journey.

Which was your preference – partnership or sole proprietorship?

Adeleke: I believe sole practitionership is gradually becoming extinct. I always knew partnership was the ideal model for me even when I was not sure who the partners would be. This again is part of the preparation process – knowing what model you are going to adopt. I remember when I had a conversation with my former Boss (I still call him my Boss by the way) and he asked me about my plans – his words were “Partnership or Solo?” I replied that I intended to go into a Partnership and he said it was great, particularly for the corporate commercial market especially in an age of diversification of practice.

How did you decide on areas of practice especially seeing that some are saturated and/ or dominated by the big players?

Adeleke: Selecting our areas of practice for our law firm was driven by our passion, our areas of expertise and the market. We considered the saturation in some areas of practice, but were not swayed by it – we follow the market need, our passion and the expertise we have built in these areas over time.

What was your funding experience?

Adeleke: Funding was provided by the Partners. It is important to start small but continue to grow and expand as the pocket accommodates all the needs arising.

How did you manage your initial costs?

Adeleke: As earlier stated, it was self-funded and we decided not to overshoot the runway.

Do you have a physical office? If so, what influenced your choice of office location?

Adeleke: I believe that as a lawyer in the Nigerian market, the office needs to be physical. Lawyers like doctors have personal relationships with their clients and a lot of clients ask to meet in person. It is important to have a befitting place to accommodate the client.

Based on this, we went for an office building in Lekki.

How did you put together a team?

Adeleke: The initial team consisted of the Partners and later we employed full-time Associates. I believe that since a lawyer deals with a lot of confidential instructions from clients, it is important that the team sees and appreciates this, therefore working with a freelance team may not be a great idea for a firm.

How did you win your first client?

Adeleke: I remember once marketing our services to an oil service company. We had a few meetings, but long story cut short, we did not get the brief. Days after that, we got an email from a financial institution asking us to do some work for them. This was our first official brief. The rest they say is history.

How did you market your firm especially seeing that the legal industry can seem so saturated? How did you establish your name/brand?

Adeleke: Our greatest marketing tool has been good work product. As a result of this, we have been able to leverage referrals from existing clients and this has been our greatest selling point.

We came up with the name of the firm by combining the surnames of all the partners and it sounded well and appeared to be good for us as a brand.

We are told that being an entrepreneur means having your own time- would you say your quality of life has improved since you went solo?

Adeleke: I would say it has been busier and I mean a lot busier but as an entrepreneur, you can always plan around your schedule and manage your time more efficiently.

At what point did you begin to feel that this was indeed a sustainable venture?

Adeleke: At the point at which I made the decision to go ahead and start my own firm. I also confirmed this at the start of the business and I have no regrets.

Tell us something that you were not prepared for

Adeleke: We were not prepared for the high cost of doing business in Nigeria. We started business at the peak of the economic downturn (some said it was bad timing but I do not think there is ever a “perfect” time to start). The cost at that point and even now is indeed ridiculous.

Tell us about your worst day in private practice.

Adeleke: Just like every other lawyer, I am sure I have had bad days. Unfortunately, none comes to mind right now. I guess it has become part of my nature to learn the lesson, forget and move on.

How do you balance practice administration/management with the practice of law?

Adeleke: To be a founding partner of a firm, I believe it is important you understand what practice administration entails as well as the practice of law. They are much intertwined and one cannot exist without the other. Fortunately, I have been able to understand the place of good practice administration and this was borne from my years working in a good and structured organization.

Also, I have always ensured that I stay abreast of new developments in practice administration as well as attending seminars/conferences and other creative opportunities to improve myself in this area.

What is the place of mentoring in setting up and running your own practice?

Adeleke: I believe in mentoring and I have continued to preach the need for young lawyers to have mentors. I have a mentor in this space and it is has been one of the best decisions for my entrepreneurship journey.

How has the journey been so far?

Adeleke: It has been an amazing journey so far and to God be the glory.

What is your biggest piece of advice for young lawyers looking to set up their own law firms?

Adeleke: My advice is to stay focused and have a mentor to guide you. Most importantly, do not be swayed by money. Someday your hard work will pay off.

 

 

 

 

legallyengagedLegalpreneur’s Spotlight – Adeleke Alex-Adedipe, Founding Partner at Duale, Ovia & Alex-Adedipe
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Distinguishing Yourself in a Practice Area – Isaiah Bozimo, International Arbitration

Editor’s note – we are happy to introduce a series we have tagged “Distinguishing Yourself in a Practice Area”. As part of this series, we will be interviewing successful lawyers who have set themselves far apart from their colleagues in a particular area of legal practice. They will be sharing valuable lessons from their experience for those who might be creating a niche for themselves in that area or any other area. For the first part of the series, we interview Isaiah Bozimo who has distinguished himself in Arbitration practice in Nigeria and beyond.

Please tell us about your first few years in legal practice. 

I joined the law firm of Learned Senior Advocate, Patrick Ikwueto, as an NYSC Corps Member in 2006.

The firm’s core practice area was dispute resolution i.e. trial and appellate litigation and commercial arbitration.  The firm also provided commercial advice when the need arose. Given the firm’s practice areas, much of my work involved commercial dispute resolution. The experience was both challenging and rewarding.

It was challenging because as a relatively small but bustling firm, I wasn’t afforded the luxury of being “walked through” practice and procedures.  I had to learn the hard way – by jumping in at the deep end.  I did not wait for senior colleagues to give me work, but I observed what needed to be done and got on with it. This worked well for me because I was at a firm that rewarded competent work with even more tasks.

Inevitably, I made mistakes but I ensured that I learned and grew from them and this made the experience very rewarding.

How did you discover Dispute Resolution and why did you decide to follow this path?

Dispute resolution was a natural product of my early years in practice.  I spent a lot of time preparing for, observing or participating in court proceedings.

As a result of this, I fell (and still am) in love with the strategy and psychology behind winning cases.  Appearing before Judges or Arbitrators can be very enjoyable – but the truth is, cases are often won and lost in the preparation involved when building your case.

I suspect that I will probably have zero “street-cred” by the end of this interview, but I am one of those who enjoy preparing and cross-referencing trial bundles!  You must love dispute resolution to follow that path.

Please give us a brief overview of what Dispute Resolution and Arbitration practice are about.

Dispute resolution refers to the various options available to find a solution to a dispute.  The best-known options are negotiation, mediation, arbitration and litigation.

Arbitration is a private forum in which an independent arbitrator or arbitrators (where they constitute a panel) acting in a judicial capacity, makes an award, acting judicially, to finalise a dispute between parties.  Arbitration will only apply where parties have already agreed to employ it as a means of settling disputes either in a contract or otherwise. The involvement of an arbitrator is based on the parties’ prior agreement, and parties can only apply to the court in limited circumstances either to  subsequent involvement of a court is limited to support the process , or to set aside an award.  on limited grounds.

What did the Arbitration space in Nigeria look like when you decided to follow this path?

For a long time, litigation dominated the space, but there was a dynamic and growing arbitration community.  Today, the arbitration community is very prominent and continues to grow exponentially.

I did not want to restrict myself to litigation.  Empirical data points to the wider geographical adoption of arbitration as the standard means of resolving cross-border commercial disputes, particularly in Africa. Nigeria’s recent signing on the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement is a good example.  The growth of international trade increases the potential for cross border disputes.  Arbitration plays an important role here because it aims to resolve disputes in a neutral arena so that neither disputing party has the “home-field” advantage in its domestic court system.

I like to keep my options open and arbitration gives me an avenue to do that.

What were the challenges you faced when you started out in Arbitration and how did you overcome these challenges?

In arbitration, visibility is critical.  To succeed, you must demonstrate competence and to demonstrate competence, you must write articles, make meaningful contributions at conferences and events, volunteer time on committees etc.  All this takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money.

As a young practitioner, the challenge is finding the balance between billable hours for the firm and advancing a career in arbitration – with its accompanying time and cost obligations.  I overcame this challenge by helping to develop the arbitration practice at the firm in which I started my career.  This way, I was literally able to practice in my “backyard.”

Today, many options are available to overcome the monetary challenges.  For instance, young practitioners can attend conferences for free by volunteering their time to planning committees.  They participate in free events and network with experienced colleagues by joining young arbitration groups such as the ICC Young Arbitrator’s Forum (ICC YAF) and CIArb’s Young Member’s Group (YMG).  They can also demonstrate their competencies by participating in international moot competitions such as the one organized by the Lagos Court of Arbitration Young Arbitrator’s Network (LCA-YAN).

The opportunities are available – one simply has to put in the effort and take full advantage.

Did you acquire any additional skills or certifications (e.g. online courses Masters, PhD, etc.) to enable you to work in this practice area?

I have a Master’s degree in Commercial Dispute Resolution and I am currently a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK).  While these qualifications certainly help, they are not an absolute prerequisite in terms of securing work in arbitration.

I know very many professional colleagues who work in arbitration, but do not have formal certification in arbitration. I also know individuals with many academic certifications but no arbitration cases to their credit.

You have done very well for yourself in Arbitration – why would you say that is? What is the most rewarding aspect of working in Dispute resolution?

Thank you very much!  It has been a combination of hard work, luck and determination.  When I first started, I devoted a lot of time, money and resources without any financial return.  I volunteered my time for free on committees so that I could work with “gatekeepers” in the industry.  Whenever I had the opportunity, I demonstrated commitment and competence, which led to more work, but without pay.  I honestly did not mind at all, because I had my eyes on the prize. It gave me hours of invaluable access to more experienced and very senior colleagues.

I also made the most of networking opportunities.  Whenever I was offered a speaking opportunity, I accepted even when it was at great personal expense.  I remember speaking at an event in Paris in 2015, where I met Dr Emilia Onyema, an Associate Professor at SOAS University of London and Tunde Ogunseitan, a Counsel at the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.  I almost did not go because I had to pay for travel and accommodation.  After speaking, Dr Onyema invited me to speak at the SOAS Arbitration in Africa Conference in Lagos.  Of course, I said yes!

At the Lagos event, I met Tunde Ogunseitan again, who invited me to speak at an ICC Arbitration event in Nairobi and I gladly accepted. At the Nairobi event, I met Professor Dr Mohamed Abdel-Wahab for the first time.  Earlier this year, Prof. Abdel-Wahab invited me to join the Faculty of the CIArb. Oxford Diploma and of course I said, yes!

I continued this pattern for many years and I can say that my hard work is finally paying off in terms of recognition and remuneration.

How do you see your career in Arbitration progressing from here? What would be the pinnacle for you?

This is going to sound very cliché, but I intend to continue to put in the hard work and stay relevant.  If in 10 or 20 years from now, I am relevant in the international arbitration community, I would consider it to be a great success.

What advice would you give to young/aspiring lawyers looking to excel in Arbitration?

Though it is on the rise, international arbitration remains a niche discipline compared to litigation.  It’s never too early to start prepping.  Universities offer international dispute resolution LLMs with optional modules dedicated to commercial arbitration.  Also, international institutions such as the ICC, ICCA and LCIA offer internships every year.

Having said that, these qualifications are not necessary to start your career. What matters above all is demonstrating an interest. General litigation experience is valuable and background experience and practice in moot courts and other debate forums can go a long way.

It is also essential to stay in the know not only about international arbitration but in the wider commercial and political space. Look out for trends affecting international law as well as some of the significant arbitration cases hitting the headlines.


Isaiah Bozimo is a Partner at Broderick Bozimo & Company – a niche Arbitration and Litigation Firm in Abuja, Nigeria.

He has represented state-owned entities, corporations, and high-net-worth individuals in several complex disputes, both in arbitration and litigation.  He has been involved in arbitrations under the rules of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the Lagos Court of Arbitration (LCA).

Isaiah is the Chairman of the Advisory, Lagos Court of Arbitration-Young Arbitrators Network (LCA-YAN) and was an ICC Young Arbitrators Forum (YAF) Representative for Africa, the Middle East and Turkey.

He has vast experience in civil and commercial litigation at trial and appellate court levels, as well as intricate commercial arbitrations.

 

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Legalpreneur’s Spotlight – Mojisola Olugbemi, Founding Partner at Stark Legal

Editor’s note – we are happy to introduce a series we have tagged “Legalpreneur’s Spotlight”. As part of this series, we will be interviewing successful young lawyers who took a bold step to leave practice and set up their own law firms (i.e. to become entrepreneurs in the legal industry). They will be sharing valuable lessons from their experience for those who might be considering a similar move. For the first part of the series, we interview Mojisola Olugbemi, the young lawyer who founded Stark Legal, a fast-growing law firm based in Lekki, Lagos. 

Why did you decide to venture out on your own?

Mojisola: I decided it was time to stop chasing other people’s dreams and start chasing mine.

When and how did you know that you were ready?

Mojisola: I set out to start my law firm, Stark Legal in 2014 after some years in practice.

I knew I was ready when I became very restless at the Law Firm I previously worked. Initially, I thought I was just tired of working late and on most weekends, but I soon realized I was restless because I needed something more. So, I started praying about it and I believe that I got confirmation from God. I would not have done it without that confirmation.

How did you prepare for your transition into the “legalpreneurship” life? 

Mojisola: I met with my mentors weekly and they helped me articulate my thoughts and structure my plans. They also prepared me for the challenges of entrepreneurship to ensure that I was ready.

Which was your preference – partnership or sole proprietorship?

Mojisola: Partnership. However, I started as a sole proprietor. I had a gentleman’s agreement for a partnership which was to start two years after, and it was not until then that we became the partnership that we are today.

How did you decide on areas of practice especially seeing that some are saturated and/or dominated by the big players?

Mojisola: My former boss once told me that, “anybody can decide to be a ‘space Lawyer’ or a ‘commercial Lawyer’, but how you would pay your bills is the big question”. So, you do what pays your bills until you can afford to do otherwise. That piece of advice helped me quickly master the art of doing the work I got, and not just the work I wanted.

What was your funding experience?

Mojisola: My startup costs were funded by personal savings. Shortly after I started out on my own, a number of people who believed in my aspirations supported me with briefs which eventually led to more briefs, and thus, more funds.

How did you manage your initial costs?

Mojisola: We started “small”, with only the reception area of the office furnished. We prioritized and only purchased the barest minimum we needed until we could afford more.

Do you have a physical office? If so, what influenced your choice of office location?

Mojisola: Our office is at Lekki Phase 1. I decided on Lekki because it was fast becoming a commercial hub and naturally, I gravitated towards that.

How did you put together a team?

Mojisola: I consulted a few colleagues who recommended a couple of excellent Lawyers. Initially, I had two Lawyers, an assistant and a cleaner. I decided I was not going to hire the services of anyone who wasn’t going to get paid and this was because I needed people who would be invested in the firm.

How did you win your first client(s)?

Mojisola: My initial clients were returning clients whom I had done some work for before I actually started my firm. Apparently, I had handled the “smaller” briefs excellently and so they did not hesitate to give me work when I established my firm.

How did you market your firm especially seeing that the legal industry can seem so saturated? How did you establish your name/brand?

Mojisola: I did not do any form of marketing initially. What I did, however, was to ensure that I handled briefs excellently and this made clients happy to refer others.

We have core values which essentially define our culture. One of them is excellence. We do excellent work. It was only a matter of time before our brand became well known.

There is an impression that being an entrepreneur means having your own time – would you say your quality of life has improved since you went solo?

Mojisola: Not really. I used to work long and late hours when I was an employee and now, I work round the clock, including weekends.

At what point did you begin to feel that this was a sustainable venture?

Mojisola: I knew it would be sustainable from the start. I did not go into it guessing. I went in with a confirmation knowing it was what I was supposed to do. Our sufficiency has always been of God, and from the beginning “business” has been great.

Tell us two things that you were not prepared for?

Mojisola: Turnover of staff (before we found the perfect set). I also was not prepared for the high overhead costs.

Tell us about your worst day in private practice?

Mojisola: That would be the time I had to let go of a lawyer who was not meeting our expectations. He was my senior at the bar and someone I had a lot of respect for. Having the conversation with him about the firm’s decision to let him go is probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do.

How do you balance practice administration/management with the practice of law?

Mojisola: I soon realized that it was easier for me to focus in the mornings, so I do “brain work” in the morning and leave admin tasks to afternoon/evenings.

What is the place of mentoring in setting up and running your own practice?

Mojisola: I have fantastic mentors and without their advice, it would have been extremely difficult to navigate some tricky spots. My mentors were and continue to be extremely supportive.

How has the journey been so far?

Mojisola: It has been fulfilling but also fraught with a lot of challenges. We have come out better and stronger.

What is your biggest piece of advice for young lawyers looking to set up their own law firms?

Mojisola: Ensure you have God’s buy-in. That is the only way you can hold on when things get tough because you know you are doing exactly what you should be doing and you are fulfilling your purpose.

Also, before you start, ensure you have constant work that would keep you busy and pay your bills for at least six months in advance and try to keep your costs as low as possible.

Mojisola Olugbemi is the Founding and Managing Partner of the Law Firm of Stark Legal. She is responsible for the annual strategic planning of the Firm, the efficient implementation of the Firm’s strategic plan as well as the Firm’s overall growth and development. She currently leads the Energy (Oil, Gas and Power) and Intermodal Transport (Aviation and Maritime) Teams of the Firm and is actively involved in Alternative Dispute Resolution (Mediation, Negotiation and Arbitration).

Mojisola is also actively involved in Litigation and has particular expertise in contentious matters. She has represented Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil), Matrix Energy, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Lufthansa German Airlines, Access Bank Plc amongst many others in matters spanning oil spill and environmental issues, banking and international payment systems, employment and labour related issues. In recognition of her vast knowledge of business establishment and corporate governance principles, she sits on the boards of several companies as well as provides company secretarial services to many more.

legallyengagedLegalpreneur’s Spotlight – Mojisola Olugbemi, Founding Partner at Stark Legal
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Debunking the Myths about Law Students

It begins this way: you meet up with a person, let’s say a fellow student, with whom you discuss for a minute or two, at which point, you are still just an ordinary mortal. Then he finally throws the big question and asks, “what course?” you let out in a low, deliberate and unassuming tone, “Law”. Chances are, you may just not be able to take in the outburst of admiration (or otherwise) that follows. At that point, you stop being an ordinary mortal, and you now become “a Law student“, a somewhat different kind of mortal.

Society has its stereotypes about every profession. For lawyers, the stereotypes may be flattering initially, but with time, may dissolve into distaste and lose its appeal. It is these same stereotypes that Law students grow into, and while some of us may be able to maintain our personality regardless, others find themselves bending to these overwhelming ideologies about being a Law student, which sometimes conflict with their true personalities. What society sees in the end, is a bloated persona; two different persons living in one body and bloated things certainly do not look appealing.

This article seeks to debunk certain myths about Law students.

  1.       Law students are proud

This is the most bigesst of the myths. In most schools, Law students are perceived as thinking too highly of themselves and this may not be farfetched.  In most universities, Law faculties set higher admission cut-offs than most other departments and faculties. This gives the presumption that Law students would want to distance themselves from students of other faculties with lower cut-offs. With time, the presumption is sustained where such students naturally respond to this perceived sense of achievement by developing high self-esteem, which in itself is certainly not a bad trait. However, once the high self-esteem is threatened by a non-Law student or Law student in a lower class, Law students often end up being defensive and come off as rude, arrogant and proud.

In effect, the perceived pride stems first from a sense of academic superiority to other faculties and later from the expectation that if you are studying Law, you are noble and learned. This may explain why Law students never want to lose arguments.

However, Law students are not necessarily the best students. Although Law students are generally intelligent, there are several highfliers in other faculties who may perform even better academically in their respective course of study. The societal expectation of lawyers and their indispensability adds a chip to the shoulder and not all are capable of handling this. Law students are definitely not proud; they are human beings who are just as flawed as everyone else.

  1.       Law students are too serious

Glanville Williams in his book, “Learning the Law”, makes one thing clear: studying the Law is no child’s play. The academic demands of Law can be quite sapping, and if we are honest, we have, at some point, questioned our decision to study law. Considering the fact that Law is a highly competitive course, no one wants to stay at the bottom of the class and some do not like the middle rung either. The outcome could be a student who appears to have no social life, but a bookworm who hardly creates time to relax and take a break.

However, it has been seen that Law students are actually incredibly social, funny and know how to have a good time. The secret is that Law students unwind when they are with people they are comfortable around.

Related: Skills You Need to Become a Lawyer and how to Develop Them

  1.       All Law students will end up as lawyers who argue in court

Litigation has been around for a long time and in most legal systems, it is still the major means of dispute resolution. Therefore, the myth that Law students will only end up arguing in courts is not without basis. However, with new practice areas such as Maritime, Finance, Corporate Law, Energy and Projects, Intellectual Property, Tax and Alternative Dispute Resolution springing up, the legal profession is fast developing.

The position globally is that Law continues to go through a major shift with advances in Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and robotics and Law students and even qualified lawyers are responding to this shift. Although some Law students may find fulfilment in traditional advocacy and litigation, there are others who are carving a niche for themselves within these new and upcoming practice areas.

  1.       If you’re studying law, you have hit gold

This is yet another widely held fallacy; that Law, being a professional course, automatically promises the better life. In Nigeria for instance, every year, the Nigerian Law School pumps approximately 4,000 students into a very small labour market which in truth is very choking, and thus leaves many to end up settling for less than what they set out to achieve.

Although the field of Law is generally lucrative, the chances of hitting gold depend on the comparative economy and job opportunities of different countries or even cities. The most lucrative legal practice is concentrated in megacities like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Calabar. This also plays a very important role in laying a good foundation for Law practice as well as affects access to quality internships, career advancement initiatives, mentorships programs, and acquisition of intermediate and advanced digital skills. However, students are stepping up their game as they are aware that studying Law does not by default guarantee a bright future as deliberate efforts have to be made to grow out of mediocrity and stand out from the crowd.

  1.       Law Students are trained to be robots that lack human emotion

Further into their studies, Law students are taught to be highly analytical, sorting through legal issues in case scenarios and applying the relevant laws. Additionally, the rationale behind most of the decisions by judges, echo the need to distance from emotion and to never sacrifice logic on the altar of emotion.

This, however, should not be so. As far back as the 12th century, the need to give emotions some recognition influenced the growth of equity which advocated for good conscience and fairness, as against the strict letter of the law. Judicial activism today also advocates that judges should sometimes deviate from logic alone and factor in extra considerations. Therefore, Law students are not trained to be robots which lack emotions, rather they are only taught to be analytical and wary of emotion, as it can be extremely misleading. Law students are trained to distil emotions from logic and to never prioritize emotion over logic or else it may occasion miscarriage of justice. The nexus of both lies in how we apply logic to analyse and draw conclusions based on individual viewpoints. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr agrees when he said, the life of the Law has never been logic but experience.

The take-home is when you know Law students inside out, what you see is no longer a “Law student”, but a human with flaws, depth, sarcasm, laughter and fun.

Olanrewaju Moses is a 400 Level student of the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan. He is a Director of Research and the Head of Divisions at Intellectual Property and Technology Law Club, University of Ibadan where his passion for this emerging field of law got him featured on University of Ibadan’s Diamond FM to discuss IP in relation to startups. He currently serves as the Speech Coach of Faculty of Law Literary and Debating Society, and the Managing Editor of Citizen NG, a fast-rising network of African writers. A recipient of various awards, he recently won the 2019 Omituntun in Diaspora Essay; and emerged third place at the 2019 National Intellectual Property Advocacy Competition organized by University of Ilorin Intellectual Property Club. Moses is a futurist, and he hopes to time travel.

 

 

 

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An Open Letter to the Rejected Job Candidate

Dear Stephanie, 

You are not the reason you did not get that job.

Mr Titus, the Chief Operating Officer for the company was clear on what he wanted. After his last two recruitment “errors”, he had come to this conclusion and made some decisions.

He knew that for ethic’s sake, the qualifications he desired could not be placed in the official job advert so he decided to write down the areas he was not going to compromise on and shared he shared these areas with the HR team to serve as a guide during the first level interview stage.

Mr Titus was not going to hire anyone from the Igbo speaking part of the country because, in his opinion, they just could not be trusted. He thought about Ambrose his last project manager, who spent more time handling his own personal projects and diverting company resources to his SME.

Secondly, he was not going to hire any lady that was married. Jacklyn his front desk officer had to leave the office at exactly 5 pm every evening because she had a family to attend to, unlike Jennifer who was single and willing to work late hours to get the job done.

Again, he was not going to hire someone who did not attend a government primary and secondary school. He had concluded that Jide lacked drive because he was raised by privileged parents who sent him to a private school. He compared Jide to his son, Solomon whose drive for success, he believes was fueled by the “tougher” standards he experienced in the government boarding school he attended.

Lastly, he was going to make sure he hired someone who knew the place of RESPECT in the office. He could not understand why junior staff would dare call a senior manager by name. Adding ‘Mr’ was still not good enough. Afterall in his friend Mike’s company, they called their senior managers with respectful nicknames or at least used ‘Egbon’.

And so, Stephanie you showed up with an impressive resume, but you did not include your marital status, your state of origin or the names of the schools you attended (and you did not need to!). You instead focused solely on your experience and achievements in your 7-year career journey. On arrival, you greeted the interviewers with a simple ‘Good Morning’ without a ‘sir ‘, and ‘ma’ as you were not certain of the office culture. You left confident only to receive the email of regret.

You cried for weeks and blamed yourself.

You thought you were not good enough.

But you just did not know Titus.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

By Ivie Martins Ogbonmwan

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Maximizing Your University Years: the undergraduate’s guide to legal excellence

It is no gainsaying that the undergraduate years of law students are germane to their overall development. These years not only represent a key part of the student’s self-growth but also shapes his approach to life.  In fact, to a very large extent, how you, as a student, position yourself during these university years has an overwhelming influence on your life after school. So, if you can determine how best to position yourself, you would be a step ahead in maximizing your undergraduate years.

While there are no hard and fast rules as to maximizing these years, there are, in the very least, helpful tips that can set you on the right course. And whether you are in year 1 or 5, it is never too late to start. It’s like the saying goes: the right time to start was years ago, but the second right time is now.

Be diligent with your studies

First things first, work on getting good grades during your undergraduate years. Do not fall into the category of those who write off school examinations as not being the “true test of knowledge”. This notion is one that often pushes students to adopt a lackadaisical attitude to their academics. The students then start to believe that being active in other extra-curricular activities somehow justifies their nonchalant attitude to their studies. However, the question that this category of students refuses to answer is why not do both; Why can’t you be a diligent law student and an astute participant in extra-curricular activities?

Therefore, do not get sucked in by those that preach against good grades. As a law student, you need your grades. And most importantly, since you lose nothing by chasing them, why not chase them excellently and passionately!

Source and apply for opportunities

If you must fully maximize your years as an undergraduate, then you must constantly be on the lookout for opportunities. The modern-day law student is not one that sleeps on opportunities and allows them to pass by. Even if the opportunity does not present itself as a clear-cut one, you source it out and then ensure you take advantage of it. One interesting thing about the world of today is that there are several opportunities out there for undergraduate students which have the capacity to change your life and the only way you would know is if you reach out and try.  More so, these opportunities – which may be conferences, scholar programs, essay competitions, internships – help increase the quality of your experience. They expose you to the framework of a life outside the classroom and this is a key factor in knowing the purposeful law student.

Be active in student organizations

In addition, plan your time well enough to accommodate law student organizations that may be interesting to you. These organizations are always charged with a specific task which they carry out. They include the Moot and Mock Society meant for mooting competitions; the Literary and Debating Society meant for debating the International Law Students’ Association, the Tax Club, the Intellectual Property Club, the Junior Chambers’ International, and several other more. Asides sharpening your skill on the specific purpose of these organizations, they further help you with your leadership skills which are very important.

The longer you spend being diligent in these student organizations, the more chances you have of being elected or appointed to handle tasks and manage responsibilities. As a student and future lawyer, you can learn a lot from these tasks, responsibilities, especially with regard to how you handle your relationship with people. The ethics you develop from the proper management of tasks in your student organizations will influence your work ethic later as a lawyer.

Asides this, as a committed member of these organizations, you can get the opportunity of meeting top players in the law industry. As such, you see that the benefits of joining these organizations while you find a balance with your academics are simply immeasurable.

Take online courses

Again, the modern day law student does not sleep on avenues which they can use to boost their CV. There are tons of courses online which you can conveniently take during your undergraduate years and get certified for. Taking online courses basically does two things for you: for one, it equips you with a wider knowledge of the law, and secondly, it adds value to your CV. It indicates to recruiters – especially for internships – that you are not an average law student.

Apply for undergraduate internships

Apply for internship opportunities with different firms in the industry. These internships offer you the avenue to get a hands-on and practical approach to how the law is practised. They provide you with the opportunity to be in the environment in which you hope to later work. Regardless of whether the internship is paid or not, what should be a priority to you is the experience, the people you would meet and what you would learn. Also, interning with firms further leaves your CV robust and attractive – a sign of a hardworking law student.

Equally important is the fact internships give you the opportunity to test out if you really want to study law. Seeing the numerous benefits, the question again is: why not apply for the internship programs? In most cases, all you need do is to forward your CV and Cover Letter to the firm which you intend to intern. It is, however, always competitive getting internship with top law firms, so you would have to tighten your belt.

Finally, as an undergraduate myself, I have found out that in maximizing your years as an undergraduate law student, it is most important that you know how to find the balance. While it is good to be versatile and engage in all the above-stated things, it is more important that you master the art of ensuring that one does not affect the other (read how here). Once this is reasonably understood, then getting the best out of your years becomes effortless.

Habeeb Asudemade is a 400L law student and an award-winning writer with interests in Law, Leadership, Business and Community Service. He is a 2019 Nigeria Higher Education Foundation (NHEF) scholar who has interned with corporate law firms in Nigeria.

In 2018, he was selected to represent his University at the Impact Africa Intercontinental British Parliamentary Debate Championship in Kumasi, Ghana where the University placed first runner-up. Also, in 2019, he was selected to represent his University at the John H Jackson European Law Students Association Moot Court Competition on World Trade Organization Law in Nairobi, Kenya.

He is also a co-founder and business development head of Tell! – a content development company and an alumnus of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program.

 

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Balancing Academics with Extracurricular Activities

As students, we have individual interests. Although we desire good grades, the need to develop these interests often rivals our academic fancies. In an era of incredible advances in technology and the resultant global demand for highly cognitive and behavioral skills (such as interpersonal skills, problem solving, creativity, communication skills, analytical skills, project management, leadership, risk-taking and strong work ethic ) it has become imperative that premium should be placed on extracurricular activities as much as academics..

On the one hand, academics seek to instil in-depth intellectual knowhow and acquaint students with the scholastic demands of their field of study. On the other hand, extracurricular activities present an ecosystem that helps to build the personality of a student through active engagement in projects that require them to develop and apply requisite skills.

However, the narrative often gets twisted where a student cannot balance these two and find themselves robbing Peter to pay Paul. The result is a graduate that can neither meet the demands of a fast-paced work environment nor answer basic questions in their supposed field of study. Safe to say, a balance is all that is required. The question, however, is how do we balance both academics and extracurricular?

Accept that you cannot do everything

First, you need to come to terms with the fact that you cannot do everything. There are cases of students who went off the academic grid because they got themselves involved in too many extracurriculars. Take your time to choose wisely. You definitely do not want a situation where your commitment in those activities is mediocre, as this immediately echoes low engagement and growth. Be sincere with yourself and let the number of activities be commensurate with your strength and passion.

Prioritize your academics

Establish the fact that your academics are your priority―of course, your academics got you to school in the first place. Further into your LLB journey, you need to remind yourself of this truth because there will be instances where you feel compelled to sacrifice your academics, but doing this comes with substantial repercussions. A decision to prioritize your academics helps you maintain the balance.

Draw up a timetable

It is usually tasking to maintain good grades and at the same time continue to be very active in extracurricular activities. By drawing up a timetable, this gets much easier. The timetable should reflect the activities you plan to attend, and the preparations or activities required for you to maximize your experience at each club meeting. This timetable should revolve around your reading schedules, and you should make deliberate steps to keep both studies and extracurricular in check. This way, you can keep track of time, and be less susceptible to spontaneous schedules.

Join Study Groups

Joining a study group helps you monitor your status with a course at any point in time. Through discussions, points that you would never have averted your mind to are brought to the fore, and ingrained into your subconscious. Besides, you can easily ask questions where you are not clear on classes you missed as a result of extracurricular engagements. Checkups never go wrong.

Simplify topics by discussing with friends

Law courses can be technical and when extracurricular activities limit your engagements in class, it gets much worse. What you can do then, is simplify topics taught in class with friends. This means you have to discuss the topics casually with friends; argue and brainstorm on cases and courses. Foremost philosopher Bertrand Russel advises us to philosophize as it unlocks portals of profound understanding. We can also compare them with real-life stories, make jokes and quips from them, and before long, the topics would have unveiled themselves. It even gets better when this gist partner is equally or more passionate about both the extracurricular and academics. The icing on the cake ― you have got yourself an accountability partner!

Relax

Take deliberate efforts to relax. However, do not just relax; also take stock of how much you have achieved in the past week.

In conclusion, the future of work is changing and the legal profession is being automated; if any student will not be left behind in the wave of technology, they will equip themselves with needed skills manifest in their respective interests. Extracurricular activities help to develop these skills; however, in order to acquire and develop a profound understanding of legal canons needed in practice, academics must never be compromised. In effect, deliberate efforts must be channelled towards achieving a balance between academics and extracurricular.

Olanrewaju Moses is a 400 Level student of the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan. He is a Director of Research and the Head of Divisions at Intellectual Property and Technology Law Club, University of Ibadan where his passion for this emerging field of law got him featured on University of Ibadan’s Diamond FM to discuss IP in relation to startups. He currently serves as the Speech Coach of Faculty of Law Literary and Debating Society, and the Managing Editor of Citizen NG, a fast-rising network of African writers. A recipient of various awards, he recently won the 2019 Omituntun in Diaspora Essay; and emerged third place at the 2019 National Intellectual Property Advocacy Competition organized by University of Ilorin Intellectual Property Club. Moses is a futurist, and he hopes to time travel.

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Increasing Your Response Rate on LinkedIn; five things to do before you hit the Connect button.

In today’s world where your network can determine your net worth, it is no longer news that LinkedIn is the best platform for networking, getting hired and cultivating rewarding business relationships.

Many people, students and young professionals alike, complain that LinkedIn is overrated simply because they feel once they sign up, jobs and great connections will be served to them on a silver platter. Others feel it is not worth the stress simply because some industry experts hardly accept connection requests and even when they do, they hardly respond to messages.

All these notwithstanding, the truth is that most times, we are the architects of these occurrences. In the following paragraphs, we will be looking at five things you should have done or you should be doing to increase your networking response rate on LinkedIn.

1.      Polish Your LinkedIn Profile

This issue cannot be overemphasised. Remember, first impressions matter and your profile is the first thing about you that gets the attention of your prospective connection. Polish your LinkedIn profile before hitting the connect button. Once this is done, you will be able to present yourself in the best possible and credible way, and this helps to increase your networking response rate.  An article has been written by Yimika Adesola,  on tips to build a killer LinkedIn profile for Nigerian professionals you can check it out here.

2.      Use Your Alumni Network

We understand how difficult it can be to look for and connect with the right people after your profile is polished. This is where the alumni network comes in. You should try to connect with the alumni of your university or even better,  find out how many of them work in the organisations, practice areas, divisions or cities that you may be interested in working. It is expedient to avail yourself of the opportunities that exist in connecting with your university alumni.

Most people are unaware that LinkedIn has provided a feature for this great connection and reunion You can find it here.  Upon clicking this link, you will be directed to your university alumni page which LinkedIn has structured to enable you to view the alumni of any given year.  The page  provides details such as; “Where they live”, “Where they work.” “What they do”, “What they are skilled at” and “How you are connected.”

Using this feature, you can also filter based on location to view whether you have any alumni living or working in your city.

Connecting with alumni from your university can make the process easier as it could give you an icebreaker to adopt when reaching out.

3.      Be Strategic

Do not just connect with any name that pops on your feed. It is not about volume; it is about quality. In terms of connecting with industry experts, be on the lookout for mutual connections you share with them and where necessary, ask for an introduction from your 1st-degree connections.

4.      Personally Invite

After building your profile and determining those you would like to connect with, the next thing is to personally invite them. Don’t get lazy and just spam random people with impersonal invites to connect. The key to success on LinkedIn is personalized 1-on-1 conversations and networking.  The first step to take on this is to use the “Personally invite” button.  Instead of hitting the “Connect” button straightaway click on “More” then on “Personally invite” and craft a thoughtful and personalized message politely asking them to accept the connection request. Do not send generic messages.  Remember, the intention is to build relationships, and not to amass connections.

5.      Add Value 

Lastly, you can appreciate them for connecting. Always remember to add value first before you ask for value!  You can add value by reading and commenting on their works, congratulating their career progress, asking them for their expert opinions on topical issues, making a recommendation and giving endorsements, offer offering your help and assistance to do something you are good at for free, forwarding interesting articles or posts pertaining to their fields and ultimately finding  out what they need help with.

WISHING YOU GREAT CONNECTIONS AHEAD!

Evaristus Okechukwu is a Content Curator at Legally Engaged and a 2019 Scholar of the Nigeria Higher Education Foundation (NHEF) founded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He is currently a 400L Law student of the University of Ibadan and has represented his university in a number of national competitions. He is passionate about research, writing and public speaking.

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