The Successful Lawyer: Defining Success


By Tosin Ajose Popoola

Dear Colleagues,

             “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

                                                                                              Ecclesiastes 9:11[1]

“…On a plea of want-we provide sustenance for you and for them…”

Qur’an 6:151

This year has been one like no other, I’m sure you agree with me that it’s been a year and a half and being alive alone is a victory worth celebrating, now having clarity of purpose and tenaciously expending industry and resources on any purpose or cause is another victory worth celebrating.

With all the uncertainties this year has brought, it has not stopped moving and we are in the 8th month of the Year and in 4 months, it will wound up. Of course it’s ‘summer’ the courts are on Vacation and if you’re a court girl like me, you must be on ‘House Vacation’ one good thing about the ‘House Vacation’ is that there is more than enough time to think and reflect on the happenings of the year, ask heart wrenching questions, strategize and more importantly, recalibrate. In all of this, the feeling of frustration and depression may arise, especially when goals are yet to be achieved, milestone unreached and the probability of achieving the goals or reaching the set milestone is not anywhere insight.

I’m also sure that we’ve seen colleagues and contemporaries on social media doing fantastic and innovative stuff, holding virtual seminars, talks, unveiling projects, sharing success stories among others. Some are already intimidated by these success stories and great achievements and in all honesty there is no basis for being intimidated, because ‘their success’ is clearly not ‘your success’ and what one person considers as success is not true of another.

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Accordingly, I urge you to kindly calm down, define your own success and work towards your own definition of success. Put in all the required Industry, acquire the requisite people’s worth and keep going.

Failure to define our own success will only lead to low self-esteem, frustration and ultimately depression.  Here is the million-dollar question; What does success means to you? You’re the only person capable of answering this poser in all truthfulness.  When we define what success means to us, it’s easier to work towards it and when we’re not there yet we have the faith that we will get there and we are not carried away nor bothered by another who has supposedly arrived. More importantly, we are healthy having displaced any feeling of resentment, frustration and depression.

There are a lot of things that can be wrongly defined, but not success. When it comes to success, we have varying definitions and the disparity in definitions does not make any of them wrong, just the way they say; beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, success is what we make of it and define it to be. It’s been defined and described in several contexts, some context acknowledges the place of material wealth in its definition some do not. Other contexts are focused on such things as impact, capacity building etc.  Here are 2 (two) definitions I found interesting and relatable:

“success is spending the majority of my time focused on work or tasks that are fulfilling, leveraging my Zone of Genius, maximizing my potential and helping other people in a meaningful way while providing the freedom, lifestyle and experiences that I desire.”[2]

 “success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”[3]

As important as it is to define what success means to us, we must equally identify our success milestones so that we don’t forget to celebrate our wins be it little or big. Here is my advice, in defining your success, dream big, forget the self-limiting imagination, own your story, be patient and show some empathy along the way. Finally, don’t chase for gain only, lend your voice, resources, intellect to a worthy cause.

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Was it not Mahatma Gandhi who said; “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

I encourage you to write down your definition of success and identify 5 success milestones today and work each day towards realizing them. Now, if you’ve done this before and totally forgot about it in the hustle and bustle of life coupled with the Covid-19 crisis, it’s time to reactivate and hit the board again. After all, it was Stephen Richards who said; “The true measure of success is how many times you can bounce back from failure, it’s not about never experiencing a setback or a stormy day…”

Finally, I leave you with some more reasons to define your own success:

  1. Your Journey is different- Kindly recall some of my very early work on this column where I said there are different paths in this career and you have to find yours and tread it diligently, in case you’ve forgotten, (please click on this link). The same way we have different paths in the Legal Industry, we equally have different paths and journeys in life. Our respective journey determines what success means to us.
  2. Your Personality is different-Just the way and manner our respective journeys are different, our personalities equally differs. And because our personality differs what makes us happy and fulfilled, ultimately differs and as such the need to define our success and disregard the image of success we see on social media or other ‘physical’ platforms.
  3. Your Drive is different- Drive as used here, implies the rationale for taking any step or what fuels our passion to want to achieve more. We have different drive, that’s how simple it is!
  4. Your Ability is different- Yes, we all have different abilities and skills. The abilities and skills we possess determines what we consider as success.
  5. Life deals with people differently- This is a very important one and because we have limited control over life and its happenings, there is a need to be patient, show empathy and trust the process.
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Thank you.

 ‘Tosin is a lawyer, content creator and blogger, she is passionate about law and its numerous instruments. She can be contacted at:


[1] King James Version




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