Career path in law (1)

Ogunsakin Mustapha
12 Min Read
Ebun Olu Adegboruwa SAN

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

Last week, I was a guest of Dowen College, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos wherein I was invited to speak to students on choosing a career path in law. Kindly permit me to share my thoughts on this topic with you for the benefit of others who may seek to study law and lawyers alike. I believe that others who are not lawyers will also benefit from it.


Against the backdrop of the case of the recent JAMB controversies, this topic becomes very relevant, especially now when our nation is undergoing serious challenges in all the schools and indeed in the professions. I believe that there is an urgent need for total transformation in all the schools and professions across the land. The challenge before aspiring young lawyers in choosing a career path in law cannot be underestimated at all and it is good that Dowen College is already looking into this through sessions like this. It is commendable.

In the words of the learned authors of Merriam-Webster online dictionary, CAREER is “a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling. It is a field for or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievements especially in public, professional, or business life.”

Career is more of a vocation, a pursuit for which one has to be trained and tutored to master the rudiments thereof for the purpose of a future and permanent endeavour. In this regard, one can take or pursue a career in medicine, football, acting, entertainment, sports, law, journalism, academics, including teaching, missions, etc. It is a lifetime ambition, although I doubt whether politics, especially the one obtainable in Nigeria, can truly be regarded as a career, being a path for all comers. In this paper, we will talk about how to pursue a career in the legal profession.


Once you have a flair for doing things right, the moment your spirit and person abhor injustice of any kind, once you dislike any situation that results in cheating, oppressing or denying anyone his or her rights and privileges, then you qualify to be a lawyer. Even where you do not exhibit any of these common traits, you can still be involved in the practice of law because they can be acquired or developed progressively.

To pursue a career in law, you have to be involved in human angle stories and circumstances because law itself seeks to regulate human conduct. In most cases, the law revolves around human beings and their actions and conducts. This is why it is required that an aspiring law student should study literature in English, he should have a commanding knowledge of English language itself, as that is the tool of law practice and knowledge. You also need a bit of knowledge of how government and government institutions work because they are all creations of law that affect our daily lives one way or the other. For instance, the legislature is created to make laws, e.g. on the establishment and running of schools such as Dowen College; the executive is to implement these laws and formulate policies around it, such as the Commissioner for Education who supervises all schools and the judiciary exists to interprete laws and human behaviour.

It is not everyone who studies law that would eventually end up in the law court. The Nigerian legal system is unique in that you can effectively combine your role as an advocate and a solicitor. At the same time, you can take up a career to become a judge, you can be engaged in the civil service in various ministries and government agencies, corporate practice in the companies, or even teaching within the classrooms.

It is required in Nigeria that you go through the foundation schools up to the university and thereafter enroll in the Nigerian Law School, in order to qualify as a lawyer. We shall now examine the issues confronting a young lawyer who has just left the law school.


A young lawyer is faced with so many issues after his Call to Bar, for which he has to be fully prepared. The questions then are: What does the young lawyer want? What is his/her direction? You must carefully take a decision on your choice of career, as to General Practice, Advocacy (Litigation), Solicitor, Arbitration, Law Reports, Maritime, Property (Land Law), Commercial Practice, Election Petitions, Criminal Law, Human Rights, Chieftaincy, etc. This decision is important as that will determine the next career move of the young lawyer, especially in relation to pupilage.


In taking a decision, it is important, as children of God, to seek the face of God and be led by Him in the way you are already familiar with. In Ish.30:21:
“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, this is the way, walk ye in it.”

All children of God, whether lawyers, politicians or doctors, must be led by the Spirit of God, as God already has the time table of tomorrow, even before you were born. This is because the practice is better when it is in partnership with God as He owns the profession, which He established for the management of human affairs and disputes.


Having been led by God to take a decision, then you must pursue it to actualize it. You would have searched out a law office or an establishment that can help activate and actualize your dream career. I visited Gani Fawehinmi Chambers for interviews about twenty times. Most times I spent the whole day there, just sitting and waiting to be interviewed, but I was determined in my mind that that was the place for my career. I had the passion for legal practice through advocacy. So, PASSION should drive your choice, so that you are happy doing whatever you do.


A lawyer who does not treasure books and reading, cannot go far. Indeed, lawyers gather their books right from school. You need a good library to oil your practice or vision or dream. And you must be familiar with reading, studying and meditating as you would have to go through volumes of documents as a lawyer. Each case should generate substantial investment in your career, through deliberate acquisition of your working tools such as books as a good office, online library, dependable internet and remuneration for those working with you.


Good preparation precedes good performance. The foundation of legal practice is key. So if you need to go to school to master your career, please do so. You need to embrace technology in its positive aspects. For this foundational investment, please not the following:


Language is the tool of law. In virtually all the States of the Federation now, written addresses have taken over oral advocacy, even in the appellate courts. Therefore, you need to master the art of writing and drafting. People should read your letters and panic, read your briefs and written addresses and acknowledge some brilliance and industry.


The capacity to build and to demolish arguments is so very important for legal practice. Do not be narrow minded, but be honest to admit the possibility of an alternative and likely superior viewpoint and face it headlong.


Expand your horizon beyond the narrow field of law by reading famous authors on other matters. It is not just about their contents but to get familiar with writing and expression skills. Authors such as Shakespeare, James Hadley Chase, John Maxwell, Mills and Boons, etc, should be your companion as you grow. Lawyers are described as ‘learned men’ because they read and get familiar with the other professions in the course of their advocacy. Do not limit yourself at all.


Learn the life history of very important persons, especially lawyers who have made a mark ahead of you. Professor Itse Sagay, SAN has just published his autobiography. It will be good to go through such and other books. You can come in contact with great men and women through their autobiographies although you may not adopt their lifestyles hook, line and sinker.


You have to develop interest in what goes on in the world by listening to foreign and local news reports, reading newspapers and magazines, and being familiar with the politics of other nations and your own country. A lawyer must be up to date in world politics, follow up with major cases around the world and generally police the courts through the media. Social media has made this easy as you can easily follow public institutions such as the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Federal High Court, National Assembly, News Agency of Nigeria, other media houses, etc, through their social media handles. You must find time to update yourself with major developments around the world. A lawyer worth his salt cannot practice social exclusion.

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