With the ease in lock down, I trust we’re making progress and profit from our respective endeavors. Recall that on this column, I have advocated the need for lawyers to carve a niche, I have also echoed the power of industry and discipline, I have urged that as lawyers, we take advantage of technology. I have also asked some questions; what’s your people’s worth? Do you have mentors? And many more.
Today, I bring you a conversation with an intelligent lawyer who has taken advantage of technology to gain, she understands the place of people in a successful law practice. She is Abimo Toyosi Olayiwola.
Abimo holds a degree in Law; LLB from the prestigious North American University, BL from Nigerian Law school, and LLM from the University of Ibadan. To boost her visibility status and enrich her Digital Law Practice she further acquired certificates in Website Design, Fundamentals of Digital Marketing, Graphics Design and Video Editing. She enjoys music and her favorite quote is “THE BEST REVENGE IS MASSIVE SUCCESS” by Frank Sinatra.
Please meet Abimo Toyosi Olayiwola
DNL L & S: What does success mean to you?
ABIMO: The term success is relative; success means different things to different people.
Success as a law student is having an actual grasp of the law, its practicability and definitely passing bar finals. For a solo practitioner, it is based on the amount of cases as well as quality of those cases the practitioner has. Then for a law firm, the success of a law firm starts from its members of staff. For them, success is first measured within before going out. Secondly, their success is based on the productivity and growth of the staff. Then the client satisfaction; how well they have been able to satisfy their clients and deliver on tasks.
DNL L & S: How would you describe a successful lawyer?
ABIMO: A lawyer can be said to be successful based on his career. How high has he climbed in his chosen career path? The quality of his work and how comfortable he is financially. Personally, a successful lawyer is one who has made a name as an expert in his niche and is comfortable financially, able to meet up to the yardstick he has set for himself.
DNL L & S: Are there qualities and character traits to be imbibed? How can these qualities be developed by a young lawyer?
ABIMO: One of the greatest qualities of a successful lawyer is integrity. A lawyer must ensure both structural and personal integrity because sometimes your money won’t get you into some places but integrity and reputation would. A lawyer must be trust worthy both in character and expertise. You must know what you claim to know and always deliver beyond expectation. Also, diligence is very key, a lawyer must always be thorough. Persistence is also vital because success does not come easily. Young lawyers need resilience to keep pushing notwithstanding the obstacles they face.
Young lawyers can develop these qualities by being ruthlessly honest, appropriately transparent, hardworking, determined, self-disciplined and result-oriented.
DNL L & S: What should young lawyers do differently, especially in a time such as this? What tools and skills can be leveraged on and or acquired?
ABIMO: In times like this, young lawyers should look beyond the scope of conventional legal practice and try to broaden their horizon. The best tools and skills young lawyers should leverage is technology. They should leverage the internet and social media to build profitable legal practice. Young lawyers should acquire digital law practice skills, legal marketing skills, and content marketing skills amongst others. In this age, young lawyers should be able to use word processing software, Document management software, Practice management software, conferencing apps, and legal research software amongst others.
DNL L & S: Area of Practice, Location of Practice, Do you think these are determining factors of success for a lawyer? Put differently, Do you think lawyers in big cities have more opportunities which translate to success than their colleagues in remote cities?
ABIMO: I can’t deny the fact that some areas of practice are more lucrative than others. It isn’t necessarily the yard stick for success, though it is one of the factors for success. Whether or not the area of practice chosen is lucrative won’t really matter if the lawyer is happy, fulfilled and feels accomplished. However, when it comes to location, it matters to some extent. This is because it aids the lawyer in better positioning. To some extent, the location of practice determines the success of the chosen area of practice. Also, lawyers in big cities have more opportunities over their colleagues in other cities; however, digital law practice is flattening this curve. Lawyers in other cities who embrace digital law practice will be properly positioned for opportunities just as their colleagues in the big cities. At least, the pandemic has shown us that lawyers can work virtually (from anywhere). What this means is that, location will no longer an advantage. Access to a computer and the internet now present equal opportunity in terms of working and connecting with clients.
DNL L & S: What do you think contribute majorly to a successful law practice?
ABIMO: Knowledge, and in this case, not just the knowledge of the law but also the knowledge of people. Also, diligence, integrity, innovation and experience which is not necessarily your years of practice.
DNL L & S: Are there success tips you would like to share and have these tips worked for you?
ABIMO: To become a successful lawyer, you must know your onions, Knowledge is very important; I do my best to acquire knowledge. A lawyer must be able to apply the law to specific client’s need. A lawyer must be very diligent, paying attention to details and always striving for excellence. One of the things that have really helped me over the years is my unquenchable thirst for excellence, I always try to deliver beyond client’s expectation and this earns me trust and referrals. Integrity is also key in dealing with clients’ cases and money. Finally, clients now demand innovative legal practice, a lawyer must be flexible and techie to retain today’s client.
DNL L & S: Since the breakout of the covid-19 pandemic, financial experts have repeatedly told us that cash is king, meaning we must have cash at hand and this cash must be expended on essential commodities. Knowing that legal services is not listed as one of the essential services during this period of lockdown, many lawyers, especially the young ones are really finding it difficult to have this cash at hand. What do you think young lawyer should do to sustain themselves? What areas can a young lawyer begin to look into?
ABIMO: Young lawyers should begin to think outside the box of traditional legal practice to go into non-conventional legal practice areas that are untapped. Most of these non-conventional practice areas merge valuable use of technology and the practice of law. This includes digital analyst, legal content writing, digital law practice, data privacy, digital products creation, law firm branding, and blogging amongst others.
DNL L & S: Most law school graduate covet employment in top tier law firms and we all know that these firms cannot accommodate them all, what do you think is responsible for this mindset?
ABIMO: Most law school graduates covet employment into top tier law firms because of attractive remuneration and opportunity for career development. I believe that the place of employment has a vital role to play for the success of a lawyer. However, it only matters to the extent of expertise and career development that the firm affords a lawyer. it does not matter that a lawyer was unable to get placement in a top tier law firm, what matters is that a lawyer is in a firm where he is well exposed to best practices that affords him career growth. I know lawyers that are working in top tier law firms but do not have the experience that their colleagues in medium law firms have. Most times it borders on protocols which forbid young lawyers from handling certain cases. While some of their colleagues in smaller firms handle similar cases occasionally. I’ve been in a law firm where the protocol was so much that I was only preparing processes for months, and when I was to appear in court, I would appear with a senior colleague. And then I moved to a smaller firm where I started litigating cases including Appeals without any senior leading me. The smaller firm accelerated my career growth in a short while.
DNL L & S: Are you then saying that to become successful, it doesn’t really matter where the young lawyer starts from?
ABIMO: Though the place of employment can accelerate the success of a lawyer, it is not totally responsible for the success of a lawyer. Success is a personal decision, no matter how the placement of employment gives room for career development and growth, individual will have to make personal decisions and take steps in order to be successful.
DNL L & S: What would be your advice to these categories of persons; fresh from law school lawyer who is unable to get into any of these top tier law firms, that student who failed, be it the bar finals or any other examination? Do you have any personal experience of failure on a certain project/examination you would like to share with them or advise?
ABIMO: Honestly, I would tell them that it is not the end of the world; that you didn’t get in to the top tier law firm doesn’t diminish your worth. I also applied to some top law firms in the past and I wasn’t employed but I moved on and started doing amazing things. For those that failed, I would advise that they should not be weary but try again because examination is not the true test of knowledge.
I have failed a couple of times, I remember when I wrote my first WAEC in SS2, my result came out beautiful except that I had E8 in Literature-in-English, it was painful because I had studied hard and promised my parent that I would clear my result in SS2. I was a smart kid so they didn’t expect less. However, my heart sank when I saw the ugly E8. It took me a while to get over it. After a lot of encouragement, I managed to rewrite the exam and had a beautiful result. That’s history now; I have realized that we must learn to embrace failure on the path to success.
DNL L & S: Do you consider examination the true test of knowledge in the context of law practice?
ABIMO: No I don’t, as much as I believe in examination, I also believe that examination cannot sufficiently test the abilities of a lawyer in the context of law practice. Gani Fawehinmi was the best legal mind of his time but he finished with an ordinary pass in the University. Most of his colleagues who made First class in school could not out shine him in legal practice. Being successful and making impact in legal practice goes beyond the paper qualifications.
DNL L & S: Carving a niche…developing an area of specialty seems to be the new thing in the legal industry, do you consider this a good development? Does it contribute in any way to the success of a lawyer? Does it not limit the client base?
ABIMO: Carving a niche is not really a new development; most successful lawyers we know have their areas of specialization. Lawyers are just waking up to understand the fact that carving a niche helps to establish expertise and authority. The legal market is now very competitive and for a lawyer to thrive, he needs to be an expert in his field. The clients of today are smarter; they don’t want a jack of all trade. Also, today’s clients use search engines to search for lawyers with keywords, specialization is one of the best ways to show up in online searches. Carving a niche makes a lawyer the go-to-expert for prospective clients when issues of his expertise arise. This in turn, contributes to the success of the lawyer because he will be the authority in his field and dominate his space.
Carving a niche does not limit a lawyer’s client base; it makes the lawyer stand out and more positioned for visibility in the saturated legal market.
DNL L & S: Please leave us with your final thoughts on ‘becoming a successful lawyer’
ABIMO: Success is relative and for every bench mark we achieve, there is always a new one to overcome. We must not rest on our oars; we must know that success is a journey, not a destination.
Abimo Toyosi Olayiwola. A business lawyer and a Digital Law Practice consultant. She is the Principal partner of ABILEGAL Barristers & Solicitors and the founder of Digital Lawyers Network.