The Successful Lawyer: Paying It Forward; The Kindness That Does Not Cease


By Tosin Ajose Popoola

Dear Colleagues,

A story is told of a young law graduate who was unable to raise funds for his Law School Tuition Fee, his inability to raise funds led to forfeiture of the admission into the Law School for that particular academic year. He then took up an internship role with a Law Firm while doing freelance editing work on weekends to gather funds for his Law School Tuition. This young man’s name is Forward.

As usual, the Law School sends her students on externship to law firms in the course of their study, accordingly, another young man whose name is Connect and who coincidentally studied with Forward at the University was posted to the Law Firm where Forward was interning.

In the course of interactions, he got to know Forward’s financial constraint. He then told one of the Senior Associate who was in charge of coordinating Law School students on externship, the Senior Associate in turn told one of the Partners in the Law Firm, whose name is Pay. Mr. Pay remembered how a wealthy Chief in his Village sponsored his education from the University to the Law School. Mr. Pay remembered the act of kindness shown to him and accordingly agreed to sponsor fully Forward’s tuition fee for the next academic year.

Interestingly, Forward now sponsors indigent students to the Nigeria Law School yearly.[1]

The above story of Forward and Mr. Pay is a classic example of paying it forward. In case you still you don’t understand, pay it forward is an expression for when the recipient of an act of kindness does something kind for someone else rather than simply accepting or repaying the original good deed.[2]

Paying it forward is setting in motion a chain or cycle of kindness which touches a lot of people, it is more than payback. As a matter of fact, pay back will only benefit the original doer of kindness, while pay it forward touches lives. So, in our story, payback will only benefit Mr. Pay (who does not even need it) while paying it forward touches lives, hence the yearly sponsor of indigent student by Forward.

Here is another simple definition of the phrase; It’s an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying the kindness to others instead of to the original benefactor.[3]

The statement credited to Benjamin Franklin further illustrates the concept of pay it forward; he said as follows:

“I do not pretend to give such a deed; I only lend it to you. When you…meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a Knave that stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”[4] 

While, the story and the statement of Benjamin Franklin deals with money, acts of kindness is beyond money, it could be a contact, a guide, support on a journey, patronage, teaching, sharing, giving, helping, admonishing, counselling etc., the list is endless.

As we climb the ladder of success and progress in the Legal Industry, let’s pay it forward, let’s teach what we know, let’s spread the knowledge we have, let’s share the wisdom, let’s give what we have, for receiving is truly in giving. In truth, when we pay it forward, we actually pay ourselves, little wonder Mary Anne Radmacher was noted to have said; “As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.” 

Here are some more reasons to always pay it forward[5]

  1. Paying it forward leads to change in circumstances of the beneficiary of the act of kindness being paid forward. Just like in our story, Forward’s life and indeed circumstances changed forever as he was able to attend the Law School which afforded him the opportunity to sponsor other indigent students. From a struggling law student, his circumstances changed to a successful lawyer who was in turn able to change the circumstances of others.
  2. Paying it forward inspires generosity and compassion and leads to several selfless act. This is a no brainer, giving, inspires the next person to do the same. It reveals the compassionate side of humanity.
  3. It leads to introduction to new people, the circle of people is expanded and these people may in turn enrich the life of the person paying it forward and that of others. I hope we are still mindful that our peoples worth most times determines our net worth.
  4. It breeds respect and trust. It also builds confidence and faith in others, thereby making the World a better place.

I am reminded of an editorial I read, wherein the Chief Editor stated that “Humanity is at war, but humanity battles on.” I therefore urge us to show kindness in our circles and to look out for the next person in this battle. Let’s keep paying it forward.

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

[1] A fictitious story made up by the author of this Article.



[4] Franklin, Benjamin (1917). Autobiography Macmillan P. 241


Share on


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here