For the career planning Nigerian Law School student, this is for you…
I had an email conversation with a current law school student who was trying to map out his career after law school. He wanted to see how he could form a niche for himself in the area of Taxation, Intellectual Property (IP) law and Corporate Financial Law.
He wanted to know how he could end up working in a top Tier law firm in Nigeria and was looking for advice. I decided to share the advice I gave him on planning for your career after law school, albeit limited as I was also just called to bar.
So I hope this helps someone out there.
Before I begin the list I would like to encourage you to draw up a career development plan. It is a useful tool for anyone attempting to progress deliberately through a specific career path. With this plan you review where you are in your career, deciding where you want to be and using smart goal setting to get there. Here are the steps:
STEP 1: Write down your primary career goal
For example “My primary career interest is getting called to the Nigerian Bar with a minimum 2:1”.
Your starting point is the place where you’re at now – your Point A. What drives you? What has influenced your career choices? How did you get to your current career track? Think about your educational and professional qualifications, your work skills, work experience, interests and hobbies.
STEP 2: What is your destination/goal?
As with all efforts, you must be clear about your direction when you create your own career development plan. You don’t take a road trip without knowing where you want to end up. You also don’t need to overly complicate this task. I think the following questions are helpful in thinking out your destination.
- Where do you want your career to be in two years?
- Where do you want your career to be in five years?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
- What makes these targets resonant for you?
Don’t make a goal just for the sake of making one. You need a goal that really rings your chimes and helps to motivate you into action. If you’re making a goal based on what someone else wants, it also isn’t going to be that compelling for you. Being clear on your direction means being clear that this direction is inspiring and motivational and knowing what is driving you to it.
STEP 3: List 2-3 activities that will help you reach each goal.
Know what it will take to get there.
Be sure to specify how you will accomplish the activity, the resources needed and when you will start and finish it. For example:
STEP 4: Create your Career Development Plan: put it in print/writing
There is power in the printed word. When your goals are in your face daily, you can see them and it’s easier to commit to them.
You are now fully armed with a clear two-year goal and all the details of where and what you need to develop to get you where you want to go. Your plan will be best if you can consult with your boss and/or a mentor to help you with ideas of how to get the skills you need to add.
There may need to be some logical order to a few of the items on your list. Sometimes you need to do X before you can do Y. Make these among the highest priority items so you can accomplish these things and move on to others.
Keep track. You need to pay attention to your plan a minimum of twice per year. This will allow you to stay focused on your progress and remind you of next steps.
Career development is the sort of thing that you can easily forget about until you wake up one day to realize you have gone nowhere and aren’t having fun. You are responsible for where you go in your career. With a little bit of planning you can accomplish great things.
Now we can continue with life after law school.
First of all, to understand the law firm rankings i suggest you visit the Legal 500. The website shows the top law firms in different countries on several areas of law. These firms are assessed using the Legal 500 criteria which you can view on their website.
Now, for those who have high career aspirations I hope you are taking the Law School Programme very seriously. The first thing I would say is needed is for you to perform well in your Bar Finals. Please try not to listen to people who tell you that what you get does not matter because it somehow does. Make notes, go to your classes, do the work assigned before class, LEARN YOUR DRAFTS, follow your externship programme carefully and most of all ask questions.
While you are focusing on Law School you should start building a social profile for yourself. LinkedIn is a fantastic way to connect with likeminded individuals, network with old friends and speak with people who are in different fields so that you can develop an interest in an you are looking to work in. By looking at peoples profiles, you can see what organizations and societies they joined and what they studied or trained themselves in.
Ensure you update your CV regularly and join societies in Law school; believe me it goes a long way.
Now when you do these, you will definitely start learning or hearing about various areas in law and also firms that mainly practice in the given area you want to specialize in. Through networking you will see how people have been able to map out their careers and you can do that also.
Now at this point, you have been called to the bar (by Gods grace) and you are about to serve your country (I am taking a wild guess here).
You are looking for a law firm to work for the year. I would suggest taking your time to decide on a good firm, by this time you should have done the necessary due diligence and know the kind of firm you want to work for and areas you want to practice in. As to how much Law firms pay I cannot give a particular price, it ranges and also depends on you.
Do you want a firm that pays well, or a firm that will guide and teach you? Bear in mind that your NYSC service year is actually crucial. With the right law firm guiding you will be trained rigorously in research and drafting and all other things that will give you an added edge to a firm where you spend one year doing close to nothing. At the point when you are then looking for a job as an Associate, the things that firms will expect an Associate to know or be able to do, you don’t know them or can’t do them which will look disappointing to an employer.
Top Tier firms can pay anything between 50,000-250,000 Naira and it all depends on the firm. If I could give you some advice, focus on firms that teach.
Use your NYSC year wisely!
4. PERSONAL GROWTH
More importantly, you should also look towards personal growth during your service year. During your service year you have ample time to boost your CV, which is not as hard as you might think. It all depends on your level of hard work and determination.
I believe working in a Law firm that will help your personal growth is a great start for a young lawyer. This is because as a young lawyer, you will benefit more from a firm that makes you research a lot, allows you to write articles, opinions that you can publish yourself, trains its lawyers in the office and also allocates mentors. This is something that people will even pay for, rather than go to a firm where you will sit in a chair from 9-5 and do nothing.
There are many organisations, institutions and societies you can join to better yourself in your area of interest. By joining them, you have the opportunity to speak with people who are well versed in that field. You can also excel there; you can join committees, write for the group and make a name for yourself. Some of the Organisations you can join are:
- Toastmasters Club
- International Law Association (ILA), Nigeria
- Young International Arbitration Group (YIAG)
- The Association of Professional Negotiators and Mediators (APNM)
- Young International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA)
- International Bar Association (IBA)
- The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT)
- Maritime Arbitrators Association of Nigeria
This list is in no way exhaustive, there are many many more groups and organisations you can join. You are welcome to add more in the comment section for others to see. Also some of these groups will require a membership fee. Look at their website, read about them and see if you are interested.
Professional Institutions are also great in helping with your qualifications. There are many professional institutions in Nigeria that regulate different areas of Law. Some of these institutions administer certification examinations to their members depending on their charter. Passing these exams are seen as symbol of professional accomplishments and lend credence to the competence of the individuals who have passed the examinations. The list below represent some but not all such bodies in Nigeria
- Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria
- Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors & Valuers
- Centre for Law & Development
- Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria
- Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research
- Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN)
- Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Nigeria
Hopefully these will get you started.
I hope this advice helps you in some way. Please continue to visit my blog for further help. Try, at an early stage like this to join firms that are geared towards your growth. You don’t want to join a firm where you are forgotten.
I hope you achieve great things.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s) – and, since we are critically-thinking human beings, these views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time. Please do not hold us to them in perpetuity.
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