Hairat Balogun has come to be more than just the name of a leading female lawyer; it is a name that has become synonymous with excellence, pace-setting, trail blazing and many firsts! But that is not all there is to it. The name Hairat Balogun is a force, a call to straighten your spine, to uphold the ethics of the law profession and to promptly abandon mediocrity. On this occasion of Women’s History Month, I celebrate this icon whose exemplary life, work, and legend of blazed trails, have immensely enriched the legal profession in Nigeria in no small measure; they constantly impel lawyers, irrespective of gender, to reach for higher heights.
Hairat Balogun was called to the English Bar – Lincoln’s Inn – in February 1963 and to the Nigerian Bar in July of the same year. She founded Libra Law, where she is a Senior Partner. In her career spanning 6 decades, this amazon has never been one to shy away from either the call to leadership or its accompanying responsibilities. In 1981, she was elected the first female General Secretary of the Nigerian Bar Association, a position she held till 1983. She was appointed the first female Attorney General of Lagos State in 1984, under the military administration of Gbolahan Mudasiru – becoming the second female to hold that office in the entire country. She subsequently joined the Body of Benchers where she not only distinguished herself and earned the prestigious position of a Life Bencher, but also went on to lead that August body as its first female Chairperson. Her outstanding legacies of excellent leadership are not limited to the Nigerian Bar Association; she exhibited and continues to exhibit the unique ability to be dynamic in her style of practice and leadership, thus creating a niche for herself in both local and international legal landscapes. It was therefore not surprising that she served as the first female member of Council of the International Bar Association. She was also the Chairperson of the IBA Working Group on Gender Issues and was appointed as United Nations International Observer in the Lockerbie Trial at the International Court of Justice, from 2000 to 2001.
Like a fruitful bough, Balogun’s leadership skills extend beyond the bounds of the legal profession: she served as a Legal Assessor for the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) Disciplinary Tribunal and Investigating Panel and was a member of the Board of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission. She was the first female President of the Rotary Club of Lagos. Like a goldfish, Balogun’s life of undeniable excellence and spirited leadership did not go unnoticed by the Federal Government which recognised her contribution to nation building with the National Honours of the Order of Niger (OON).
Mama Hairat is a disciplinarian; passionate about maintaining the ethos of the profession through mentorship. It is not unusual to see her correcting younger lawyers on their courtroom mannerisms, language and dressing. She is a revered icon and we are thankful to God Almighty because in her, we have a role model for all lawyers to look up to and emulate.
In 2011, she published her autobiography titled “To Serve in Truth and Justice”, a must-read for anyone who desires to pursue excellence in life.
Yakubu Chonoko (Y. C) Maikyau SAN
Chairman NBA Welfare Committee