Chidera is a legal officer at Evergreen Apple Nigeria Limited, the first private Fixed Base Operator facility in the Nigerian aviation industry.
Aged 27, she holds a law degree from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2009. Chidera shares some of her experiences as a legal officer in Nigeria.
What was growing up like?
I grew up in Port-Harcourt. It was a calm and safe environment at the time and growing up was fun. I grew up in a Christian family who shared love and care and nurtured me in a well-disciplined manner to ensure high moral standards.
I attended good schools and grew up to become a go-getter. My upbringing has helped shape me and this same upbringing shall eventually be extended my own kids. I am really grateful to God for his mercies thus far.
Why did you choose to study law?
I chose to study Law having grown up to admire it as a prestigious and reputable profession. I am fascinated by the developments in law, the way it adapts to an ever-changing society and also the important contributions it makes in our society.
Studying Law equips you with intellectual skills as it develops the ability to think logically, the articulate expression of complex ideas, the composition and art of argument and how to apply evidence and rules.
What work experience have you garnered so far?
While at the University, I worked as a law intern at a leading Investment company. My duties involved assisting in filing statutory returns and scheduling meetings, reviewing documentation for Accounts Opening, e.t.c. A further Law internship at a leading law firm in Lagos helped me to gain experience in Legal research on different areas of law, and in preparation of minutes among other legal skills. I also got the opportunity to observe client interviews and court proceedings.
As a youth corper, I worked as a full time Legal Practitioner at Mike Igbokwe (SAN) & Co., Lagos where I drafted and filed court processes; litigated on non-contentious matters in the Nigerian courts, drafted and registered land title documents at the Lands Registry, researched on various legal topics, prepared legal opinions, reports etc. It was an exciting experience that exposed me to different real legal areas.
Why the switch from litigation to becoming a company lawyer?
While litigation can be a vibrant and an engaging career path, I sometimes found it boring and frustrating, mostly because of the unwarranted delays in the Nigerian Judicial system where cases are heard at the Judges’ discretion, subject to the Judge’s availability or other logistical problems.
How did you make the transformation from being a Litigator to becoming a company lawyer? Are there any professional qualifications required?
It was very easy to make the transformation from being a litigator to a company lawyer. A great advantage of the Nigerian Legal system is that upon successful completion of the Bar Exam, you are equipped with skills to practice litigation and company law so no further qualification is necessary.
A company lawyer deals with the corporate or commercial aspects of law, focusing on the specific industry regulating the company. Every company needs a lawyer to handle its daily legal tasks and ensure its compliance with the related industry and regulatory obligations, guidelines and laws. Once you are called to the Nigerian Bar, you can become a company lawyer.
I am currently preparing for the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN) qualification exams as I intend becoming a Chartered Secretary & Administrator in 2013. The ICSAN qualification is an added professional qualification and a boost for my career.
How did you get your present job?
After I decided to try something different from litigation, I submitted my resume to different organisations and also gave copies to friends and family. I got a call from the HR consultant, went through the selection process successfully and three weeks later was asked to resume.
As a company lawyer, what are some of your job responsibilities? Are there any challenges and how do you handle them?
A lot of my work includes drafting and reviewing Agreements, meeting clients, ensuring the timely filing of statutory returns; applying for and obtaining the necessary operational licenses/permits; rendering legal advice to all departments; liaising with external solicitors, maintaining all registers, signatories, seals, board agendas, minutes and reports in accessible format and procuring necessary work permits for expatriates. Sometimes my job extends to organising company events.
In doing my job I often encounter challenges such as work pressures and short deadlines but I am able to handle it effectively by multitasking and working as part of a strong team of legal professionals.
Has your experience in litigation made any significant impact on your current job?
My litigation background and experience has helped build my confidence and has greatly given me exposure. Law reaches into every part of life and this is where the knowledge of the law comes in.
As a lawyer, the ability to research and find information is a vital skill. There is a saying that “a good lawyer isn’t one who knows every law but one who knows where to find the laws”. I think that often captures the essence of my work.
My litigation experience has helped me significantly in the way I relate with people especially with respect to working constructively with my colleagues and also interacting with clients and corporate stakeholders.
What plans are you making for personal development?
As I mentioned earlier, I am currently working on the ICSAN professional exams. My enrollment in ICSAN has already broadened my professional horizon by providing programs on a wide range of subjects that lead to a qualification which is nationally and internationally recognized The professional qualification is equivalent to the business education comparable to a master’s degree level program.
Presently, my weekends are partly occupied by lectures. However, I’m a firm believer in a good work-life balance and so make out time to relax, socialize with friends and family as well as attend religious and social functions.
What advice would you give to a young school leaver who is interested in becoming a Company lawyer?
I would say discover your passion and go for it; make your dreams a reality. It is advisable to always have a little litigation experience before settling as a company lawyer. This is because litigation gives you a strong foundation to build on before going on to other different legal areas which can help you in virtually running an organisation.
What motivates you to get out of bed every morning?
My success gets me out of bed. My passion for my career drives and motivates me. I am a go-getter and very good at what I do. I have the privilege of working as part of a very good team of professionals who I appreciate and have learned a lot from. They inspire me and I hope to get better at what I do and help others along the way.