TML INTERVIEW: The Nigerian Law School First Class Order Of 2017

TML INTERVIEW: The Nigerian Law School First Class Order Of 2017

Of the 5891 candidates who sat for the Nigerian Bar Part 2 exams in August/September of 2017,  4,284  were successful.

A record 29 of the successful candidates bagged first class honours. These extraordinary graduates  are, Gureje Grace Olanrewaju, Ezepue Vivian Chinenye, Echebima Viola Chidinma, Ajiboye Ibiyemi Ezekiel, Onimiya Faith Ezomime, Aboyeji Faith Oyetola, Olatunji Fatimoh Idowu, Rufai Abiodun Muhammed, Chinemerem Kasarachi Favour, Idowu Deborah Omotayo, Odunuga Oluwatumininu Subomi, Agbede Oluwabukola Justina, Ude Uju, Cyril-Okafor Jennifer Chigoziri and Nnona Chukwufulumnanya John.

Others are Ijaodola Lawal Babalola, Ise Kuseme Emmanuel, Udo Inyenebong John, Tijani Zainab Ololade, Kazeem Lawal Olanrewaju, Gbajumo Oyetade Zuliath, Tella Hameedat Oluwabusayo, Anemeje Chisom Priscilla, Okesola Aishat Ololade, Oju Orevaoghene Sylvia, Ajala Abimifoluwa Oluwadamilola, Adekoya Abimbola Motunrayo, Ishiguzo Obinna Ifeanyi, Adebisi Oluwaseun Temitope

The achievement of the learned 29 is no mean feat, as any lawyer who has passed through the revered citadel of learning would tell you.

So how did they do it? What are their secrets? What did it take to achieve this  seemingly impossible feat?

In this bumper edition of TML INTERVIEWS, The Metro Lawyer’s Ogechukwu Ochuba caught up with five of these outstanding Lawyers including this year’s top 3 best graduating students, Gureje Grace Olanrewaju who is recipient of a record breaking 15 awards, Vivian Chinenye Ezepue who among other awards received the award for best student in Property Law Practice and Viola Chimdinma Echebima, winner of the prestigious Stephenson Harwood LLP Prize for the Best Graduating Student.

She also engaged Lawal Babalola Ijadodola and Idowu Deborah Omotayo.

In separate interviews, these Lawyers shared how they did it, their plans for the future and why they believe with hard work and a carefully laid out study plan, any student can achieve outstanding results too.

The Metro Lawyer congratulates all successful Law school graduates and wishes them a successful career ahead.

 

GUREJE GRACE OLANREWAJU

TML INTERVIEW: The Nigerian Law School First Class Order Of 2017
GUREJE GRACE OLANREWAJU

Awards and Prizes

  • Justice Olujide Shomolu 1st prize in Civil litigation
  • Sir Lionel Brett K.B.E 1st prize in criminal litigation
  • Babatunde Abiodun Ibironke, SAN 1st prize in criminal litigatioN
  • National Association of Women Judges prize for the best overall female student of the year
  • Mrs Oluwatoyin Doherty’s prize for the best female student in criminal litigation
  • Hon. Justice Aloma Mariam Muktar G.C.O.N prize for the best female student in Civil litigation
  • Chief J.K. Gadzama O.F.R., M.F.R., SAN prize for the best female student in criminal and civil litigation
  • Nigerian Bar Association prize for the best overall female student
  • Sir Adetokunbo Ademola K.B.E., G.C.O.N. prize for the best student of the year
  • Dr. Taslim Elias prize for for the best student of the year
  • Justice Atanda Fatai-Williams G.C.O.N prize for the best student of the year
  • Hon Justice Silvanus Ayere Ajuyah O.F.R prize for the most promising graduating student of the year
  • Boinime Jackson Lott prize for the best overall female student of the year
  • Director General’s prize for first class students
  • Council of Legal Education star prize

TML: Tell us about yourself. What was it like growing up and what is your educational history?

GRACE: I had my primary and secondary school education at the Adeola Towers of Excellence Nursery and Primary School and Adeola Memorial College respectively, both in the Iju area of Lagos. I represented my primary school in a mathematics olympaid organised by the Mathematics Association of Nigeria and I came first in Lagos state and third in Nigeria. I was admitted to the University of Lagos in 2011 to study Law. Graduating with a First Class, and as one of the two best students in the Faculty, I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School for the one-year mandatory vocational training. I finished with a First Class grade and, as the overall best student, was awarded fifteen prizes at the call to bar ceremony in December 2017.

During one of the semester breaks in college, I had an internship stint at the law firm of Ikeyi and Arifayan in Lagos – an engagement which gave me useful exposure to the practical aspects of legal practice in Nigeria.

I am the first child in a family of six. Growing up was both interesting and challenging at the same time. The enormous support from my parents, who did everything within their power to give me the best education, made it interesting. As disciplinarians, my parents raised me under strict guidance; therefore, I hardly got into trouble. They made sure I left no stone unturned in my pursuit of academic excellence. Living far away from my primary and secondary schools posed some challenge as, most of the time, I had to face my homework – including the very difficult ones – alone. This however turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I learned to be independent.

TML: How does it feel to graduate with a first class in university and law school? Were you expecting it?

GRACE: Graduating with a first class both at the university and at the Nigerian Law School is exhilarating. Achieving this feat makes me believe that no goal is impossible to achieve and no challenge is insurmountable.
I set the goal of making a first class both at the university and at the law school and yes, I would say I expected it.

TML: Would you say it has been a smooth sail to achieving this feat? What kept you grounded and on the right path?

GRACE: Upon my admission to the University of Lagos to study law, I was informed that there had been only six first class graduates in the history of the 50-year old faculty. Although, I didn’t let that piece of information dampen my ambition, I must confess that it was very challenging. There were times when I couldn’t keep up with my grades and at the end of my penultimate semester, my CGPA dropped to a second class upper grade. I was devastated and I almost gave up on graduating with a first class. At the law school too, the challenges seemed endless. From long hours in class to unending pre-class tasks and compulsory group meetings coupled with an intimidating syllabus, making a first class was almost impossible.

There were sleepless nights, long study periods, being tagged a bookworm and many times I had to give up certain activities I loved doing in order to achieve my goal of first class.

Thankfully, I have the best support system consisting of my wonderful family and amazing friends and their support has been very overwhelming. They believed in me when I wasn’t sure I believed in myself.

TML: What would you say is your most significant achievement and what are your hopes for the future?

GRACE: For the time being, my most significant achievement is graduating as the best student both from my department at the University of Lagos and the Nigerian Law School.

As I look to the future, I hope to get to the peak and make a positive impact on the legal profession – both in practice and in the academia. I believe that God who has brought me this far would take me all the way.

TML: What is your advice to law students who would like to be as academically successful as you?

GRACE: Be focused and believe in themselves. Also, do not just work hard but work smartly too.

TML: What suggestions do you have for our educational institutions and the bodies in charge of them to improve the quality of the graduates they produce?

GRACE: I believe there is still a lot to be done in delivery of qualitative education in Nigeria especially in the area of funding. Considering the fact that the vast majority of Nigerians attend public schools, there should be ample government intervention in funding educational institutions in Nigeria.
In addition, there should be strong stakeholder involvement in funding through endowments and generous donations both in cash and kind.

TML: What is your recipe for academic success.

GRACE: A strong faith in God, determination, discipline, a positive mindset and the right circle of friends.

TML: What did you do differently to achieve your academic prowess?

GRACE: I would not say that I did anything differently. But I can say that I was  determined and refused to give up on my goals even when the chips were down.

TML: Would you say you were the traditional “book worm”?  Apart from academics, what are your other areas of interest?

GRACE: I am naturally inclined to books and my childhood is replete with memories of reading anything that came my way. So, my major area of interest is books. Music is also another area of interest for me.

TML: Was the study of law your choice? What would have been the ideal alternative course for you?

GRACE: Yes, Law is my course of choice and I have not looked back since I began this journey. I really can’t think of any other course that would have been the ideal alternative course for me.

TML: Would you say that you sacrificed your social life in order to thrive in your academics?

GRACE: In my social interactions, my focus is on creating memories and I strove to do that at all times. However, there were times when I had to make sacrifices albeit for a very short time particularly when examinations were approaching.

VIVIAN CHINENYE EZEPUE

TML INTERVIEW: The Nigerian Law School First Class Order Of 2017
VIVIAN CHINENYE EZEPUE

Awards and Prizes

  • 2nd best student of the year
  • 1st prize in Property law practice
  • 2nd prize in Professional Ethics and Skills
  • Director General of Law School Prize for 1st Class Students.

TML: Can you share your educational history? Educational history, internships and achievements

VIVIAN: I graduated from Queens College, Yaba, Lagos in 2010. That same year, I was to proceeded to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to study Law. I remember feeling very distraught that year because after passing the UTME and POST UTME, I was refused admission on the basis that I was not up to 16 years as (I was 15 years 7 months then). I applied again the next year and this time, the registration process went smoothly. Looking back, I am grateful for that one year lull. I graduated from UNILAG with a Second Class (Upper division)

I interned in the Intellectual property Department of a reputable law firm, Jackson, Etti and Edu as an undergraduate. I also worked in the same firm during my law school externship period. This time, I worked in the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department and also in the Corporate-Commercial Department. I was exposed to a lot of legal research, particularly case law research and I am grateful for it.

I am very privileged to be currently interning with Pricewaterhousecoopers (PwC), a Big 4 professional services firm. I work in the Tax and Regulatory Services Unit. The experience remains priceless to me. Every day, I am exposed to international standards and a healthy work culture.

TML: What was it was like growing up?

VIVIAN: My mom was a teacher, now a proprietress (always an educationist at heart). She was my first teacher, prayer partner, support and all things awesome. I basically grew up in a home where learning was round the clock. My mom always found a way to be creative about learning e.g. having proper debates about family outings and meals, taking down news updates in the morning before school, etc. I also grew up in a Christian home and have been taught to rely on God since childhood. There was no pressure at all! Absolutely none. My parents would never bother you because of your grades. At a point, it was almost as if they did not care. The truth is, they had poured a lot into us as kids that we could only continue to live life on that trajectory.

TML: How does it feel to graduate with such outstanding results both from University and Law school? Were you expecting it?

VIVIAN: I graduated from UNILAG with a Second Class Upper. Somehow, I sidelined the first class goal. I began Unilag with a perfect 5.0 GPA but along the line, I settled for a 2.1 and instead decided to focus on my individual courses.

This approach led me to represent the University of Lagos (under the platform of the Tax Club, Faculty of Law) in a tax competition organized by the Chartered Institute of Taxation Nigeria. I emerged winner of the competition amongst 11 other contestants from their respective universities. It also helped me focus on becoming the Best graduating student in Company Law.

On graduating with a first at law school, law school was an opportunity to redeem myself (laughs). Not that I was under any undue pressure, but I wanted to show externally how I already felt about myself on the inside.

TML: How did you stay grounded?

VIVIAN: I did not have a hard time. I enjoyed my time at law school. The only period I remember being concerned was when I fell ill some weeks to the exams. I could not study for 2 weeks. I was so worried that all my efforts from the beginning of law school was about to be thrown away but God came through. My friends stepped up to the plate and cared for me.
I had an amazing support system made up of friends and family. I had friends that had made first class the year before who gave me valuable advice and the necessary motivation (Precious Ivongbe and Ayodele Kadiri). Also an amazing person in my life (Leading Eyiangho) helped make the entire process seamless .

I started from Day 1. I leveraged on my strengths. I did not enjoy forming notes but it did not deter me. I took down copious notes in class. I made sure to attend all my classes (1% margin for error). I drafted in class. I took down corrections in class. Essentially, I did more than half of my work in class. I had enough time to focus on other activities and my personal reading. I also read for about 2-3 hours per time. I never enjoyed the long hours kind of reading so I paced myself accordingly. The few times I was awake reading till late in the night were rare.

I read from many sources. There was no pressure to cram. I only limited myself to very few materials when the exams were close but by then I had a very good grasp on all my courses.

I surrounded myself with focused people.

I was prayerful. I made confessions from the Bible and repeated them to myself throughout my stay in law school. The most outstanding key to my success in law school was a continual reminder to myself of God’s love and graciousness. On the day of every exam, I spent at least 1 hour playing messages and meditating on the love of God for me as a person. I was very convinced that God was on my side. I literally felt like an overcomer even before the exams. You would see me very calm and peaceful in the morning. God came through. He directed my reading every morning and they were always accurate! Even after some exams, where I felt I made some mistakes, I was never worried. I always assured my heart of God’s love to me that was unmerited. This to me is the most outstanding of all the factors that made for my success in law school.

TML: What are your hopes for the future

VIVIAN: To get a Masters’ Degree (LLM?) in a foremost school in the United Kingdom in the near future. To be a corporate lawyer of repute with a specialization (right now, it looks like tax). In the long run, I hope to be involved in policy making and governance both locally and internationally. I am very passionate about community development and the need to give back to the society, being a product of the society itself. Lastly, I would love to own my own businesses and be involved in a ministry in Church. For me, it is quite fulfilling to create something of your own, commit to it and watch it grow and be a blessing to others.

TML: What is your advice to law students who would like to be as academically successful as you?

VIVIAN: I would say that one of the most powerful things that can either work in your favour or against you is your belief system. It is very true that your mind is one of your greatest assets. I believe that you will be a lot closer to your goal if you believe that you can reach that goal, that all the odds are in your favour, that no course is too difficult or above you, that nothing is impossible for you to learn, that nobody has the advantage over you, etc. and to get rid of ALL negative and limiting talk and speech. I remember not particularly liking Criminal litigation at the beginning because I never really followed the Criminal law lectures in university. It might have been my down fall in law school if I had let the negative thoughts linger. I instead spoke what I wanted to see and thankfully, God supplied me strength to pay a lot of attention to the course and I succeeded in it.

TML: What suggestions do you have for our educational institutions and the bodies in charge of them to improve the quality of the graduates they produce?

VIVIAN: I would limit my suggestions to two areas.
Infrastructure! Infrastructure!! Infrastructure!!!
I am sure I would not have done so well had I had to live in the conditions that we were provided at law school. I lived with my sister in a hotel room for a few months and later moved into the Executive hostel after a while. There is absolutely no way to concentrate while living in a room with at least 5 other people. There were no adequate reading facilities, clean water and other necessities.

Also, I would say an improvement in quality of teaching staff. I have been privileged to have been taught by amazing teachers and lecturers right from nursery school (my mother comes first here). In law school also (Lagos Campus), I was taught by very dedicated and committed lecturers whom I am grateful to. On the other hand, I know people who struggled through school because they did not get it right either at secondary or undergraduate level. People who are taught by great teachers become great too. This should be looked into.

VIOLA CHIMDINMA ECHEBIMA

VIOLA CHIMDINMA ECHEBIMA

Awards and Prizes

  • 2nd best student in Civil Litigation
  • Winner Stephenson Harwood LLP prize for the Best Graduating student
  • 3rd Best student of the year
  • Director General of Law School Prize for 1st Class Students

TML: What was it like growing up and what is your educational background?

VIOLA: I am the fourth child and daughter of my parents; Sir & Lady (Barr) D.C. Echebima. My father is a retired sales manager from Guinness Nigeria Plc while my mum is my learned friend. I was born into an average Nigerian home where all the basic amenities of life where provided.

Despite the fact that I am the fourth child, my parents did not relax their parenting skills. They did not fail to use the ‘rod’ when necessary. This was to ensure that I was not ‘spoilt’ in keeping with the biblical injunction in Proverbs 13:24 . In fact, my parents ensured that I and my siblings maintained a high level of discipline.

At a young age, I developed a flair for reading. My father never failed to buy me ‘lantern books’ and the ‘Aesop’s Fable collection’. This stimulated my appetite for reading provided I was getting new information. Little wonder I didn’t find it difficult adapting to the reading culture expected of an aspirant to the bar.

I had my primary school education at Igbinedion Education Montessori Centre, Benin-City. This formative educational background stirred up the desire for excellence. This is because at that early age, I was exposed to the need for self-development and being the best at whatever you do. Thereafter, I attended Federal Government Girls’ College, Owerri where I obtained my West African Senior Secondary Certificate in flying colors.

I didn’t get into the University immediately after graduating from secondary school. I had filled University of Benin but was not given admission to study law. I was pained and unhappy. However, with the help of my parents, I regained my determination and drive for excellence. One significant thing about the one-year gap was that I developed a steadfast relationship with God and made up my mind to walk with Him. Indeed, it was the defining period of my life.

Thankfully, the following year (2011), I gained admission to the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka to study law. I graduated with 1st Class Honors and emerged as the Best Graduating Student of my set. Thereafter, I got admitted to the Nigerian Law School (Lagos Campus) where I bagged another 1st Class and emerged as the Best Graduating Student.

I have been opportuned to intern with some esteemed corporate and commercial firms in Nigeria. These opportunities were utilized during long vacations after each academic session. Notable among the firms are Aelex(Legal Practitioners and Arbitrators), Ikeyi and Arifayan, Banwo and Ighodalo. In the coming year, I will be with Stevenson Harwood LLP, one of the leading law firms in UK.

TML: Would you say that you were the traditional ‘bookworm’? Apart from academics, what are your other areas of interest?

VIOLA: {Laughs} In all honesty, I am not a bookworm. I believe there is time for everything. When it was time to study, I studied. I have other interests in events planning {laughs. This is because I like to think I have good organizational skills}. I also have interest in public speaking and sports {volleyball to be specific}.

TML: How does it feel to graduate with a first class in University and Law school.

VIOLA: First, I would like to say that I take no glory for graduating with a first class both at the University and the Nigerian Law School. The Grace of God sustained me throughout this academic sojourn and helped me attain this feat. Be that as it may, it feels rewarding to graduate with a first class both at the University and the Nigerian Law School. It gives hope to the younger generation that the educational system in Nigeria is structured to reward hard work and diligence. Gone at those days where 1st class was seen as a Class of Honor sparingly given to a selected few. Thus, any student who is ready to bend down and study coupled with the Grace of God is assured of good success.

TML: Can you give us details of your journey to success and the thing(s) that kept you grounded and on the right path?

VIOLA: Begin with the End in mind. This was my watchword.
As simple as this phrase appears, it takes discipline and determination to make it a watch word. Beginning with the end it mind entails projection and setting out long-term goals. It also helps dispel fear which is capable of depriving one of what he deserves.

As earlier said I learnt discipline at a very young age. This culminated into effective time management as a student and enabled me strike a balance between curricular and extra-curricular activities.

As a student, I tried to find my own pattern and system. If it means asking God for wisdom which is profitable to direct, ask!. This is because what works for the goose may not necessarily work for the gander. Thus, in my academic journey and life’s journey generally, I try as much as possible to do things differently provided it yields the result I want to see.

My parents also played a huge role in this success story. I will say without exaggerating that I have the most supportive parents on earth. My parents were always ready to go the extra mile to support me financially, spiritually, morally and emotionally. My mum was and is still a great inspiration to me. Seeing that she is successful in the legal profession motivates me to work harder.

TML: What would you say is your most significant achievement and what are your hopes for the future?

VIOLA: When I was much younger, I always looked forward to becoming a lawyer because of the platform it would afford me in being a nation- builder. So I would say that my most significant achievement is being called to the Nigerian bar.
I am hopeful that the future is bright amidst the bleak circumstances in our present days. I hope to get to the apogee of the legal profession and to contribute my own quota to national growth and development. I most also say that I hope in the nearest future I will be part of the nation builders that will restructure our educational system in Nigeria. In the mean time, my priority is self-development and value addition.

TML: What is your advice to law students who would like to be academically successful as you?

VIOLA: I would advise law students to remain focused, diligent and goal-oriented. As earlier said, find what works for you and always know that you are in a competition with only yourself. Above all, always ask for the Grace of God to sustain you in your endeavors.

TML: What suggestions do you have for our educational institutions and the bodies in charge of them to improve the quality of the graduates they produce.

VIOLA: In my humble opinion, there is a need for the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) to restructure and harmonize the curriculum for law faculties, subject to any internal modifications each faculty may make. This is to give every prospective lawyer the opportunity to define at an early stage what area of law interests them. With the diverse practice areas in law, students at the undergraduate level should be given the opportunity and option to be exposed to the rudiments of these practice areas. On a positive note, some universities have introduced some germane courses.

I also opine that a benchmark GPA should be set for law students. This is likened to what is obtainable in medical departments where a student is asked to withdraw or change to another department for failing to meet up the minimum GPA. If this is introduced, students will be more  focused and it will get them prepared for the academic demands at the Nigerian Law School. As regards the Nigerian Law School,I humbly opine that there should be an interplay between learning and current practice trends at law firms.

TML: What did you do differently to achieve your academic prowess.?

VIOLA: I had no magic portion to it. Together with the earlier principles I talked about{Begin with the end it mind; find what works for you and stick to it}, I applied the the principle ‘ work hard like it solely depends on working hard’ and ‘pray like it depends solely on prayer’.  I worked smartly at the Nigerian Law school considering the herculean task and work load. I also managed my time effectively in other to achieve maximum results. Above all, I maintained an unwavering faith in God.

TML: Why did you choose to study law? What would have been the ideal alternative course for you?

VIOLA: I chose to study law because of the platform I knew it would afford me in making an impact and adding value to the society. Hmmmm, in the alternative I think I would have studied human and international relations.

 

LAWAL BABALOLA IJAODOLA

TML INTERVIEW: The Nigerian Law School First Class Order Of 2017
LAWAL BABALOLA IJAODOLA

TML: How does it feel to graduate with a first class in University and law school?

LAWAL: It feels great. At times I felt the pressure heating up in my head: “why not leave University with a 2:1 and make a 1st class in Law School if you want?”  This would have eased off some pressure but I just kept on pushing.

After University, the pressure got more intense because everyone wanted me to defend and maintain the 1st class at the Law School. It got worse when I resumed law school but at that stage I did not see any obstacle, I thought to myself “people who made top grades don’t have two heads”, and I must tell you that they really don’t!

I read each and every study material available including articles found on the web and obiter dicta so I could have a proper grasp of every topic. However, I gave preference to recommended texts and points I noted in class.

Now I am motivated to start a career in the legal profession knowing that there are no hurdles too high to be jumped over.

TML: Can you give us details of your journey to success and the thing(s) that kept you on the right path?

LAWAL: I just did not want to fail. I thought I had failed few minutes before seeing my Bar final results. I’m into the habit of underestimating my expectations. So the fear of failure kept me going.

Back in the University, you could be more expressive in your answers; you could intentionally derail from the question and show a little scholarship or state the position of the law and a dissenting view. This was not the case in law school. In law school, you either know the principles of the law or not, there is no hiding place. There is no scholarship, no divergent views and no maybes. It was either the right answer or nothing at all. So I had to put more effort in my studies at the Law School than in the University.

I read consistently, answered more past questions, paid more attention to detail and participated more in class. I basically engaged in activities that kept me informed about the law. I played chess and football in my free time.

My parents provided necessary facilities and encouragement that motivated me throughout the years.  My dad would engage me in discussions to test my knowledge, this was tougher than snap tests and my mum rendered support even when I didn’t appear to need it.

My reading pattern was in line with the Law School calendar.  Every night, I would read what I was taught on that day and what I would learn in class the following day. On Saturdays, I read every topic that was taught during the week. This way, I read each topic at least thrice a week.

The timing was irregular but it was between 2-6 hours daily, depending on the topics being read and whether I read alone or with my study group. Some tough nights, my study group spent up to 7 hours reading.

I don’t know whether I had a hard time or a tough one but whichever it was, it was a period no one desires to have twice.

TML: What are your hopes for the future?

LAWAL: To learn this trade and conquer it. I intend to focus majorly on postgraduate studies in the next five years after which I would venture into general law practice and law teaching. This is because I want to become a professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria later in my career.

Over the years I have studied certain legal luminaries like my father Professor Rasheed Ijaodola, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN, Prof. Gbolahan Elias SAN and Prof. Ernest Ojukwu SAN whose careers serve as cardinal points for any rookie that intends to break through law practice and teaching in Nigeria in order not to derail. I may also get involved in politics at some point in my career.

TML: What is your advice to law students who would like to be as academically successful as you?

LAWAL: Dear Bar Part II Aspirant,
You need to find a method that works best for yourself. My method worked well for me but may not be the case with you. I read a lot of similar interviews by erstwhile first class aspirants but I can tell you that I didn’t follow their methods slavishly. I devised a method for myself.

You also have to listen attentively to your lecturers, attend classes, do and submit assignments promptly. Remember to set your priorities and keep them abreast so you would not place focus on ‘irrelevant stuff’.

Finally, I have to tell you that the game is yours and you’re in control, take charge of it. Never let yourself down for a second, keep yourself up, pumped and ready for any challenge! God bless you.

TML: What suggestions do you have for our educational institutions and the bodies in charge of them to improve the quality of the graduates they produce?

LAWAL: I only have few comments about certain Law Faculties that relegate potential 1st Class graduates to Second Class (Upper Division) claiming it’s better for them to make a first class in the Law School than to graduate in the University with a first class and have a lower grade at the Law School. This contention is a fault in reasoning. The university is entirely different in purpose and standard from the Nigerian Law School. A university awards Bachelors degree while the Law School together with the Body of Benchers confer a professional degree. So comparison should not be made between Nigerian universities and the Nigerian Law School. If a student deserves first class, why not give him or her? What has law school got to do with this?

I also have a comment about the Nigerian Law School grading system: it is unfair! I believe it would be better if students were graded based on the aggregate attained in the five courses rather than the present practice of grading students by their least score.

Kudos to the Council of Legal Education and the Nigerian Universities Commission for their efforts in maintaining minimum standard level for all Law faculties in Nigeria.

TML: Can you give a summary of your educational history and what it was like growing up?

LAWAL: My father familiarized me with legal practice at a very young age. My flair and zeal for legal practice and teaching is as old as I can think. Throughout my university career, I never had any formal internship program like other students. To me, home was just as good as the office. This did not restrain me from engaging my colleagues and seniors during moot and mock trials. Mr. Anthony Mendy, a counsel in the Attorney General Chambers of the Gambia, closely taught me the rudiments of legal practice at an early stage after which I developed myself through extra-curricular readings and observation of proceedings in court.

My first formal internship program was during the Nigerian Law School externship program: I was posted to the law firm of Rev. J. O. Baiyeshea SAN. My appetite for legal practice improved by about 20% during this period because counsel in his firm engaged myself and other externs firmly and we were also asked to do periodic tests and assignments.

I also engaged in the habit of asking questions about procedural law from seniors. It helped me a lot. I want to express special gratitude to Mr Akintunde Esan Esq. for responding to all my mails and answering all my questions during the course of my LL.B pursuit. Note that I haven’t stopped asking questions because according to a wise man, the greatest enemy of knowledge is the illusion of knowledge.

 

IDOWU DEBORAH OMOTAYO

TML INTERVIEW: The Nigerian Law School First Class Order Of 2017

IDOWU DEBORAH OMOTAYO

TML: What is your educational journey and what was it like growing up?

IDOWU: I had my primary school education in Idera Primary School, at Ketu/Alapere. In 2004, I got admitted into Jextoban Secondary school, and by 2010 I was made the head girl. I was a Science student, but I decided to change to Arts class in my final year, in order to study Law. (You can do anything you put your mind to).

In 2011, I proceeded to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to study Law and by 2016, I was awarded my LL.B degree. In the same year, I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School Augustine Nnamani Campus, Enugu, where I was assigned to Group 7 and made the group leader.

While in the University, I was opportune to intern at the Office of the Public Defender, Ministry of Justice, Surulere, Lagos. The experience was very enlightening. In Law school, I was attached to Akiri Law Office in Ikeja for my chambers attachment , where I learnt a great deal and met amazing people.

I was inducted into the FunCity Academic Honour Roll in December 2008, courtesy of Deen Sanwoola. I was also a beneficiary of the Wisdom Group Scholarship of the City of David RCCG, all through my academic year at the University of Lagos.

Growing up was a mixture of both the good and not so good times. But in all, am thankful for the experience. It shaped my perception of life, taught me a great deal and whatever I am now, it is by God’s grace.

TML: How does it feel to graduate with a first class in law school? Were you expecting it?

IDOWU: I am humbled and extremely grateful to God.  And Yes, I was expecting it.  It was one of my goals and expectations while preparing to go to Law School, because I decided I wasn’t going to limit myself or my capacity, regardless of my grade in the university or the dooming tales I heard of Law school.

TML: Can you give us details of your journey to success? Tell us your story. What role did your parents play? What sacrifices did you have to make?

IDOWU: I started out Law school with putting my goals and expectations on paper. It was not until my first term break, when I had a conversation with a friend, did I realize that to achieve written goals, one must map out conceivable and realistic plans. I used to think that all I needed to do was read, read, and understand. Little did I realize that I was building mighty castles in the air.

Immediately after the conversation, I made a resolution concerning every aspect of my life in law school. I ensured that I identified my weaknesses while I was in the university and worked on them.  One of such weaknesses was not being able to write fast enough to finish my exams before the allotted time. So, I decided to make notes while studying and practiced writing fast with solving past questions.

Having the plans (resolutions) set in motion, I followed through by learning and relearning discipline, diligence, consistency and commitment.

The goals I had set were one of the things that helped me to focus.

My Parents were very supportive. My mum was super amazing; she kept encouraging, supporting and praying for me. During the externship period, my mum took joy and pleasure in doing most of the house chores, thereby giving me enough room to study. Even when I got too tired to wake up to do my early morning studying, she would wake me up and encourage me with prayers and God’s word.

There were times when I literally almost gave up on studying and my goal of having a first class in Law school was starting to wear me out physically, mentally and emotionally.  I took hold of God’s word; I basked in God’s promises and just spent time worshipping. I also had mentors and friends who had gone ahead of me on this journey, I spoke to them and I received help in clarifying things. I refuse to forget my amazing sister Rachael, who also bagged a first class in her course of study thereby encouraging me greatly. All of these people helped me in hard times and kept me on the right path.

Self discipline played a large role in my studies. An example, if I had planned to study for a specified number of hours, I would ensure that I did so effectively, rewarding myself afterward with a movie or a good sleep.

Sacrifices!  I had to sacrifice sleep, big time!  My mentor said something significant to me during my last week of externship; that my result will stay with me forever, therefore, it is worth sacrificing some hours of sleep. He pointed out that after bar finals there will be plenty of time to sleep. I eventually completely did away with seasonal movies at some point during externship.

TML: What are your hopes for the future?

IDOWU: To please God and impact lives greatly, in whatsoever position I attain in life.

TML: What is your advice to law students who would like to be as academically successful as you?

IDOWU: My advice to law students is to hold on to God, He never fails. Be committed, consistent, determined, and diligent. Don’t be afraid to fail, if you do fail, gather yourself together, re-strategize and have an importunate spirit. And yes, get a meaningful mentor!

TML: What suggestions do you have for our educational institutions and the bodies in charge of them to improve the quality of the graduates they produce?

IDOWU: To review the curriculum and methods used in teaching, as some of them are old, abstract and too theoretically based.
To inculcate more recent and updated practical trends, that would prepare graduates for the skill set employers require.

TML: What is your recipe for academic success?

IDOWU: I don’t have a recipe for academic success, because different strokes for different folks. However, common trends in some people’s success stories,  that I have read and studied are: diligence, consistency, determination and most important; God.

 

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