Becoming A Lawyer

The question of how I became a lawyer is one I have been asked time and time again. And so… I thought to share. My story might be just another cliché one. I honestly decided at the elementary school level that I wanted to study law not because I assumed I had a great analytical mind, research skills or wanted to make a difference. What did I even know? Anyways, I received my first real inspiration from watching and following the O.J Simpson trial, from beginning to conclusion. Again, not because I was interested in the facts, the law or its outcome- I didn’t even know who he was until then. With only one TV at home, (No dstv explorer, dual cable tv or anything fancy like that) I was simply compelled to watch whatever my parents were watching. And of course their word was law! In a matter of time, I became fascinated with the facts, the words, O.J., the superstar, DNA, Marcia Clark, Shapiro, Johnny Cochran and their display of authority and control of the court room! Having a very imaginative mind… I smelt power and always imagined myself as one of the lawyers in that room. The verdict came, I didn’t understand most of the case but I knew one thing; the gloves didn’t fit. Therefore, OJ was innocent. I was so elated!! Elated as though my best friend had just been freed from jail for a crime he didn’t commit! Elated because he could get back to living his life as a super-star, or so I thought.

Fast forward to when I grew older, Math, Chemistry and Physics were not my cup of tea. Literature, history and politics on the other hand, I excelled at. How convenient! “You should be in the arts class”, “You should study law” my school counsellor advised! Of course, I always knew I would study law was my response. At the same time, by fate or accident, I met John Grisham. He quickly became my favorite author. (not as though I had read many other books…) I enjoyed his books, being a rookie, the billable hours in top law firms in New York, the thrill of controversial class actions, contested wills, confessions, the jury etc. I wanted that lawyer to be me, experiencing all these fancy things!

My dreams of studying law abroad did not see the light of day. I resumed in a Nigerian law school and then reality set in! No… Law in Nigeria is extremely different from Cochran and Grisham’s version of law practice. The wigs, the gowns, the stuffy court rooms, old case files and potentially low income. My interest for law waned. I quickly decided that law practice was not for me. I had been living a fantasy my whole life. And so I would just endeavor to graduate with good grades and get a good paying job. When my peers asked me if I would consider practicing law? “Never!” “God Forbid!”; that was my default response. And so when majority of my classmates spent their holidays interning in law firms, I simply holidayed away. I graduated from law school and it was time for me to look for a job in one of the high-paying multinational companies. And suddenly it hit me. I spent 6 years plus X (thanks to University strikes, riots, and shutdowns) of my life studying law and I was just going to throw all of that away? And then I decided, again very quickly, I was going to practice law and from that very moment, I was unstoppable. The hours have been long, research has been intense, transactions have been brain tasking and it’s a continuous process. My practice of law has been far from my “American dream”. But achieving results are compelling. The other question I am asked very often is what I would rather be if I were not a lawyer. Will I do this again in my next life? Ehm…. You bet I will. The benefits can be rewarding…. Wait for it!

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Aderonke Alex-Adedipe is a partner in the firm and she heads the firm’s corporate-commercial and project finance teams. She specialises and has in-depth experience in project finance transactions representing lenders and borrowers with particular concentration on multi-lateral financial institutions

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