The Successful Lawyer: The Power of Industry and Discipline – Tosin Ajose Popoola

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Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise[1]

Dear Colleagues,

How are you faring? I trust you’ve all been maintaining social distancing, regular washing of hands and all the safety measures put in place by the health personnel. With the ease in lock down, I further trust that we are taking these precautions more seriously. For those who can work from home, and are still working from home, I say a big kudos! For those who by the dictates of their responsibilities and roles cannot work from home, I say, please be safe. Overcome, we shall.

Remember, I told you that the knowledge of law is not all that you need to succeed in this Profession, I said you need people. Further recall that at a point I said you need to define your path timeously and diligently tread it. Today, I wish to add that you need Industry and Discipline. Am I blowing hot and cold? Nah! I am aware of that timeless principle which forbids me from blowing hot and cold and I dare not run fowl of the Court’s admonition[2] as follows:

 “One cannot blow hot and cold at the same time; one cannot approbate and reprobate. As an old English proverb has it, you do not run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. It is a maxim of law that he who makes statements mutually inconsistent is not to be listened to-allegans contraria non est audiendus…”

I am not blowing hot and cold, rather, I am building on the foundation of what I already said. Here, is what I’m saying; in addition to your knowledge of law, people’s worth and identifying your path, the other thing you need is Industry and Discipline. By Industry, I do not mean the movie industry, neither do I mean Discipline, as corporal punishment. I’m talking about hard work; smart work; “diligence in the performance of a task”[3] “the quality of working hard.”[4].

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There is no room for laziness in the legal profession. I recall being told by a senior that the legal profession is the only profession that engages your brain whether you are at work or not. As a litigation lawyer have you ever received a court process on a bad case? As a corporate practitioner, have you been involved in a negotiation where parties are holding on tenaciously to their respective views and non wants to bulge? Where you able to sleep well at night during these period? Did the thoughts ruin your weekend and family life or not? That is what the profession does to your mind.  Whether you are in litigation, in-house, corporate, academia, regardless of your area of specialty, the stress level is the same.

I have even heard that some lawyers  go on to become in-house counsel with a misconceived notion that the in-house counsel’s role and/or job is easier and less stressful. These are people who never knew about the details of what it takes to be the power house of organizations. How about those who run to academia; have you not heard of the “publish or perish rule” in academia? Have you had to read hundreds of pages of different opinions on a topic just to form yours? Do you understand the sleepless nights and the restless days?

No doubt, the era of “Jack of all trade” is phasing out and we are gradually edging towards the new era; the era of carving a niche, specialization and such nomenclatures. The rationale behind carving a niche is not to reduce the industry required of us as lawyers, rather it is to create a more narrow expertise and attract the right clients who are willing to pay a premium for that specialization[5] as well as the proficiency that is likely to be recorded.[6]

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The dictates of this era of specialization has become that of extraordinary excellence. To add value you need to give excellent service. No one is settling for the ordinary. Ordinary can now be found with a few clicks on the mouse. Everyone wants that extra. It is the extra that cuts it, sets you apart and puts you on the right track on the journey to success.

How do you then achieve excellence? The answer is simply ‘Industry’. It simply means using your time, money and talent to achieve extra. It means being awake while others are asleep. It means investing in self-development while others are partying. It means taking the path less travelled. When your work shows industry, your level of research is obvious, the depth of your intellect is apparent, your level of critical thinking is glaring, the love and/or passion for work shows. While it is within human nature to err at times, when you err on the job, your industry antecedent speaks for you. An industrious person who has a track record can even get away with mistakes that may cost others more!

Discipline on the other hand is deeper, it’s the quality of being able to behave and work in a controlled way which involves obeying particular rules or standard, to train in self-control[7]. It is discipline that would make a young lawyer in litigation to invest that lump sum earned on books and law report subscription rather than new car and new apartment.  It is discipline that makes an in-house counsel pay for all those trainings and/ or certifications required for an upgrade in the field. It is discipline that makes a person forgo immediate gratification, of course we all want the nice looking clothes, shoes, device among others, it is discipline that makes us make the prudent choice to invest in our careers rather than instant ‘pleasure of purchase of material items. The benefits of discipline are numerous; you’re able to achieve goals by shutting out distractions; promote good human behavior; bring about stability and structure and above all earn good fortune from your hard work.

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Industry and Discipline are the Siamese twin on the ladder to success. How much Industry have you shown in your work output? Please share your thoughts with me.

Oluwatosin Ajose Popoola; ‘Tosin is a lawyer, content creator and blogger, she is passionate about law and its numerous instruments. She can be reached vide: tosinajose22@gmail.com

[1] Proverbs 6:6, King James Bible

[2] Onwuseraki & Ors. V. Registered Trustees of Amucha Development Organization (2017) LPELR-43146 (CA)

[3] Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th Edition, Page 895

[4] Oxford Advanced Dictionary, Page 802

[5] www.firstrepublic.com

[6] www.investopedia

[7] www.meriamwebster.com

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