By Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.
In the Nigerian legal profession, seniority at the bar is emphasized, though, there is no specific year for determining the age within which a lawyer is young or old, one would hold to the customary practice that every lawyer called to bar ahead of others even with just a year is accorded seniority while the lawyer below such age is accorded to be a young lawyer. Nevertheless, there could also be a general acceptable criteria for referring to a lawyer as being a young lawyer, though, it is arguable that any lawyer of 7 years and below is a young lawyer, some might consider such lawyer of 5 years and below as a young lawyer. In my reference in this paper, I decided to adopt my 7 years and below as my age of being a young lawyer. Therefore, what this paper shall narrate shall be my autobiography covering my time of being called to bar up to my time of being 7 years as a lawyer, hence, the topic of this paper. I hope that this paper would be of at least an iota of knowledge to young lawyers who are coming up in the legal profession! Other young lawyers’ stories might be better than mine but this paper is about my life story.
In my humble view, my periods of 7 years as a lawyer covers several times in my life and of various experiences and exposures to life realities. I would try as much as possible to touch those times that are possible to be touched while narrating some of my experiences at such times. These experiences contain: the happy; the sad; the beautiful; and the ugly times and experiences.
First of all, I was called to bar and enrolled as a legal practitioner (lawyer) on the Register of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the year 2014. At this time, the call to bar (if my knowledge would serve me right) was during the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation course. At this time, it was not really clear to me what the legal profession was all about and how to survive the economic hardship as a lawyer. There were doubts as to whether I should seek employment in the public service or in the private service. It was not clear about what the future has in package for me.
After the NYSC Orientation course, I was posted to the Federal Capital Territory Legal Services Secretariat, Federal Capital Territory Minister’s Office and I was later assigned to the litigation department under a Principal (a God sent Principal! He was very nice to me in many ways including financially! May God Almighty continue to bless him). In this litigation department as my Place of Primary Assignment (PPA), we were mainly concerned about land matters for and on behalf of the Federal Capital Territory’s Minister or the Federal Territory Development Authority (FCDA) under the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). Before this time, I have married. Apart from the N19:500.00 that we were paid as allowance by the Federal Government, the FCTA would always pay corps members the sum of N10,000.00 at every three months to make the sum of N30,000.00 which we would be paid at every three (3) months and no other benefit (except that during one of either the Christmas or the Muslim festive period, a number of corps members were jointly given some provisions such as: rice and groundnut oil to share (which we did feel very disappointed at the poor welfare for corps members in the service!). Sometimes around the year 2015, while we were in the Community Development Service (CDS) in the NYSC Legal Aid, there was an appeal by one of the Coordinators that corps members should try to always do something tangible in the CDS and not just to come at 8am and wish to depart at 9am! Therefore, I volunteered to always make paper presentation on topical legal issues. That was how I started writing legal articles till date! After some weeks of presentation, a colleague of mine in the CDS connected me with a lawyer with the Nigerian Pilot Newspaper so as to always publish my articles in the newspaper. So, I later gained a column/full page in the law page of the Nigerian Pilot Newspaper from 2015-2017. My legal articles’ presentation also earned me opportunity of being appointed as Litigation Officer 1 of the Legal Aid CDS. Also, in the same year 2015, which was the year of Passing-Out Parade (POP) in the NYSC, I carried out about four (4) personal projects in the NYSC which qualified me for the award of the Federal Capital Territory’s Minister’s Award of Honour (equivalent to a State Governor’s Award of Honour awarded by State Governor and the FCT Minister being the representative of Governor of FCT (who is the President of the Federation in accordance with the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria)), and I was the only lawyer among the five (5) awardees that passed out in that Batch C, 2014.
Another time as a young lawyer was my experiences after my passing put in the NYSC. Before my passing out in the Litigation Department of the Legal Services Secretariat of the FCTA which was my PPA, I was connected with a private law office though one of my seniors in the litigation department, in the office of MADYAN LEGAL CONSULT and the Principal Partner was Abdul Mohammed Rafindadi Esq. (now Senior Advocate of Nigeria). So, after my passing out in the NYSC, I had applied for the Federal Civil Service and also sent out my Curriculum Vitae to some other entities but all to no avail! Since I was not retained to work in the FCDA/FCTA Legal Services Secretariat too, I had to apply as a counsel in the law firm of MADYAN LEGAL CONSULT sometimes around December, 2015. When I got to this law firm, my ambition was not even the money that I would be paid monthly but the opportunity for me to acquire more legal knowledge and how the private law practice is operated. During this period, I read through several case files, letters and official documents that I came across in the cause of my official assignments and I would always ask legal questions from my seniors in office. I would even engage my seniors in legal arguments at leisure/spare time! Also, I was never tired of being assigned tasks. In fact, whenever I was sent on errand for some legal services for clients, I would ensure that I took all my time to be as quick as possible to carry out the tasks and return back to office to be assigned other tasks or so that I could read through case files, law reports and other official letters in the letters’ file which were voluminous, since learning the practice was my ambition! Then, sometimes around the month of February, 2016 (2 months and one or two weeks after my engagement), I resigned from the law firm to establish my law office ‘THE VICEGERENT LEGAL CONSULT’ which was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) which I operate since 2016 till date.
On another time, was the time when I established my law office ‘THE VICEGERENT LEGAL CONSULT’ which was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) which I operate since 2016 till date. In my humble view, the Private Legal Practice-herein after referred to as PLP- is a business oriented practice in true sense and just as every other business, there is high level of competition among those in the PLP, the quack/fake lawyers, those lawyers in the public service but that would still wish to illegally and unlawfully still engage in the PLP at the same time as they also engage in the public service! That is why upon becoming a lawyer, it becomes very uneasy for lawyers (like me) who do not have the usual ‘connection’ or ‘know someone in authority or in charge’ syndrome to succeed except God intervenes in such lawyers’ life/practice to succeed in the PLP.
Young lawyers need to understand the great challenges that exist in the PLP so that it would help them to choose their career(s) in the legal profession carefully without wasting much of their time on frivolities. Also, considering some of the Nigerian corrupt situations, it was hardly realistic for me to even secure a retainership with a company or firm for legal services without me having the usual ‘connection’ or ‘know someone in authority or in charge’ syndrome except would God intervene for me soonest! Even securing retainership with government’s Ministries or Agencies or Departments requires the so called usual ‘connection’ or ‘know someone in authority or in charge’ syndrome except God intervenes. For some years now, I had made some applications for retainership to both private bodies and government’s body but it seemed as waste of time without having the so called usual ‘connection’ or ‘know someone in authority or in charge’ syndrome while I have got no single call on any of my applications till date! It really requires God’s intervention for me to really sustain my PLP practice for the past six (6) years of operating my private law office- THE VICEGERENT LEGAL CONSULT! The issue of having clients (customers in other words) is not different from the challenge that some business owners or traders or merchants usually have in term of customers to the extent that some of them would have to consult voodoo or traditional rituals to succeed in their business except those who are devoted to God Almighty. One can imagine working for six (6) years without any monthly salary or allowance! Furthermore, the PLP though wide in term of areas and or fields, requires extending the legal services to those clients that require them or need them. Whereas too, the Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners, 2007-herein after referred to as RPC- has some regulations against advertisement, soliciting and touting. Therefore, the difficulty becomes harder on young lawyers like me who would intend to operate their PLP! It is then my humble advice that to sustain the PLP, one requires to move closer to God Almighty (with prayers and to try his best) and the difficulty should not compel any such lawyer to seek voodoo or supernatural means of gaining success as that is indeed a long way to success! Truly, a young lawyer requires to enjoy materials of life too from his only source of income (i.e. the PLP) such as: having a house of his own; having vehicle(s) of his own; and making provisions for his family, entirely settling down, etc. In my own case, what I would say is that God should continue to bless those senior lawyers and some few philanthropists that He has blessed me with for their supports in many ways! The financial condition became very almost unbearable! No close partner was there to support me! Even, as a human, my wife almost divorced me for financial unavailability since, according to her, she has exhausted her patience! It was just the grace of God Almighty that my wife did not end up divorcing me because I had no money! Even my wife’s family (in-laws) and some of her friends had advised her to divorce me because I do not have money! I became an open enemy as a result of my temporary financial incapacity! I was just like a ‘no-body’ in the sight of my in-laws! My parents would advise me on more patience! Incessant nagging and discontent from one’s spouse would in no way alleviate one’s situation rather, it would contribute to the pressures! It took the good counsel of the good people around me who consoled me to be patient and not consider human’s inadequacies from my wife and her people but to continue to pray to God Almighty for help! I did cried to God and He rescued me out of the pressures and economic recession! When I was in these sorrow, almost everyone around me would always be tired of calls from my wife complaining about me as if I was lazy or not earning money to survive the family! There are some who would always encourage me to keep on the good work that I was doing, while some would always see me in the bad light that my wife has painted me! I was very devastated and almost thought that there was no life worthy of living in this life! Though, my wife was helpful in some ways perhaps because she gave room for some bad advisors who misadvised her against me! I had to assume no one would be with me at my trying time and people would only come close to one when they find advantages to benefit so, I had to gather all my hopes for help from God Almighty alone! As for me, I would say that ‘for every successful man (as myself), is his (my) God! No help from anyone except from God Almighty! All glories belong to Him for whatever that I achieve and accomplish and my appreciation goes to those senior lawyers and non-lawyers who would send me some money when I would beg them for help! Also, young lawyers need to know those challenges in the PLP before venturing into it and learn the manners of operation so that they do not end up as ‘common criminals’ doing all sought of illegal and or criminal and or corrupt life and or and or unethical practice which might end up destroying the whole of their career(s). What I really advise young lawyers that intend to establish PLP of their own is to remain focused and sometimes too, life is about risk-taking. I could remember in my own case (though, my operation of my office was indeed God’s calling!) when I established my PLP of my own i.e. THE VICEGERENT LEGAL CONSULT- sometimes around the year 2016 (which I operate till date by my calculation), I had started with no one single client! It took me few months before I could get a client whose case was even a pro bono criminal appeal to the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory-Abuja, against the decision of an Area Court. Also, with the aid of public interest litigation and human rights activism (and as time goes on, some other few clients started coming on board), I was able to (though with God Almighty) manage and cope with the trying times till date and just like a joke, it is surprising that it is now six (6) years (to my calculation) of establishment! I have handled over 60 cases in court (though some are still pending) up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. My appointment as a Notary Public for Nigeria is awaiting swearing-in! I give all the Glories to God Almighty! It was indeed His Will that I should establish the law office and engage in the PLP! He is the one that has always been sustaining the office and my PLP too, as well as my family, because, sincerely, I cannot and I could not have done anything without God’s support! This paper too is also as a ‘testimony’ in my life as a young lawyer! This is an autobiography about myself of my challenges during my periods of being a young lawyer! I do not want to start counting on my positive impacts in the legal profession and Nigeria as a whole so as not to seem as a pride!
Furthermore, it was indeed not easy being a young lawyer in Nigeria without support or opportunity for overcoming the economic challenges, more pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic! Many (including one’s wife and her family) would expect that since one is a lawyer, he should offer money or secure a well-paying job without understanding that all of those expectations take only the God’s grace!
Where do I rise to from after my 7 years of being a young lawyer is my being passionate to be appointed a Judge of High Court or if that would not be God’s purpose for me, to remain in the private practice and apply to be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. My thought on whether I should be a Judge of a High Court (though with likely interest in the Federal High of Nigeria and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja except where possible of Lagos State-my State of origin), is motivated by a number of factors, part of which I have stated above. I pondered on my past and growth leading to my becoming a lawyer as well as my focus and future ambition on careers in the legal profession. When I was young, and up till this level, I had faced a lot of challenges. I could remember in my childhood, many inspirations had occurred to me in my dreams and in real life, but which I could not understand! I asked some persons around me but they were not gifted by God to be able to interpret my dreams to me, perhaps, because, it was in God’s plan that it was not yet time to actually discover the message or His purpose for me. Sometimes in my dreams I would see some persons bowing to me in respect and making me their king! I had no one to pay my primary school fees after my primary school completion, so had to be out of school for two (2) years with tears in my eyes and in my heart! These two years were respectively full of traumatic experiences for me but God has always been helpful by providing me way-out whenever required. So, I had to engage in selling ‘iced-water and other menial jobs’ in the streets of Abeokuta, Ogun State, at age 12, before making my way to my State, Lagos State, in the year 2000. Then, I got admission back to the Junior Secondary School and God brought me close to those who would share my pains. I had to be responsible for my education (myself) with determination and full of positive ambitions! Why and how? I did not understand! So, after my Senior Secondary School, I was made to remain out of school again and this time for another three (3) years. Within these three (3) years, I was made to be mentored and taught by some few intelligentsia in the society. They explained some secrets of this life to me. They informed me of what the future has in package for me. They made me to discover myself as to my potentials and prospects in life but that I should be patient and that my life is likely to face a lot of challenges but that they foresee greatness in me in future and that I should be prayerful! It was like a divine interpretation and message to me then, though, they spoke normally and naturally without consulting any voodoo. And when they spoke, I would follow in the spirit! Then, God also guided me towards religious principles and made way easy for me to excel in Islamic school and bestowed on me the knowledge to understand His Islamic laws with clear interpretations and meanings. So, when I was able to pass through these stages, God Almighty having decided to then perfect His intention on me, He made me to return back to the tertiary institution with one of my results that I had believed was not sufficient for me to gain admission about two years past. That year, my admission was secure in the Lagos State University. My tertiary institution changed its requirements for admission which made me to be a beneficiary. I got admission into the law faculty and God also made it easier for me to study Islamic Personal Law. God was able to resolve the financial challenges of studying the law programme by raising an unknown philanthropist and some charitable organisations under their Education Trust Funds (ETF) Program who sponsored my law programme from the admission fees till law school fees when I got called to bar as a legal practitioner. There and then in my undergraduate level, so many persons have identified my future status in life and were always praying for my success, though, then, I was much more surprised as to their comments! God considered me for some scholarships in undergraduate too, which made it easier for me to study. I could remember that I went to my tertiary institution upon admission, with no particular place to reside and God did not disappoint me as He sent a man to me immediately I entered the school campus who took care of me in feeding and shelter for my first year and gave me accommodation where I resided till I graduated! I was poor and destitute but intellectually equipped with talents! In fact, my understanding and interpretation of law and legal principles always appear to me in talents aided by little learning! It is a great surprise to me as to what I know and how I am always guided in resolving legal issues beyond my level! I can not thank these many people whom God has used to impact in my life, indeed! I pray God Almighty will continue to reward them with abundant good! Then, when I finished my law programme and upon my NYSC, God made me to be in the Legal Aid Community Development Service as an Assistant Director 1 of Litigation (as I have stated above). In my service, I was able to carry out personal community development service project, which I was able to complete in less than four months and I was awarded the FCT-Minister’s Award of Honour, at the passing out parade in the NYSC. I was the only lawyer among the five (5) awardees! I was not offered any job by the Minister of the FCT! I got a law firm to work as an associate for just two months and one week, then, the message from God came to me that I should resign and to establish my own office. I myself could not explain why I resigned! I could always recall what a Co-partner in that office told me when he called me into his office to know the reason for my resignation? After listening to me, then he said ‘I know that this place (even a large law office) is too small for you and I know that you will make it’! It was a prayer for me and discovery of my prospects in life! Then, God Himself located an office for me where I practice till date (since about six (6) years a go). Then, I placed some name to register my law office with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Of the names that I suggested, it was the one that was least expected by me that was approved ‘THE VICEGERENT LEGAL CONSULT’ but I later found joy in the name. How I came about that name still remains a surprise to me till date. Then, in 2016, I got a call unknowingly to proceed to Saudi-Arabia to perform the Islamic Holy Pilgrimage, where God used some men of intellect to explain all the dark sides and unclear experiences and dreams in my life to alert me that I have been indeed chosen for His work as a ‘Human Rights and Socio-Economic Rights Activist’! It was then that I discovered who I am ‘THE VICEGERENT OF GOD ON EARTH AND A HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST DIVINELY CHOSEN’! And God has always made my human rights and socio-economic rights activism easy for me and I thank Him! Some persons have disliked me and wondered why I chose to fight for humanity! To them, it looks like a self-seeking and a show-off! I use this medium to explain to them that that decision is not my decision but that of God Almighty and I have no choice than to obey! I require their understanding and support for me to be able to achieve the goals of God Almighty on me!
Furthermore, as a young lawyer, sometimes around the year 2019, I decided to create a whatsapp group to help giving free legal aid to Nigerians of all categories (excluding lawyers) by establishing a Forum with the name ‘Hameed Ajibola Jimoh Esq.’s Pro bono Legal Mentorship Forum (LMF), with the link: https://chat.whatsapp.com/KP3U082KkyTKB6XaNvzT3o. This is to be my continuous roles in legal services to humanity. Sometimes around 2019, I registered SUSOR Initiative! SUSOR initiative is the acronym for ‘Stand Up for Someone’s Right Initiative’- which is a Non-Governmental and not for-profit Organisation- herein after referred to as NGO- which was incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2004 as ‘The Incorporated Trustees of Stand Up for Someone’s Right Initiative’ with the Registration Number: CAC/IT/NO 138574, in the year 2019. The SUSOR Initiative is an initiative (chaired by me, my humble self: Hameed Ajibola Jimoh, as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and the Chief Executive Officer (Chairman/CEO)) as an initiative for societal reform.
Furthermore, (not a pride or arrogance) I am eight (8) years (post call to bar) now! Glory be to God Almighty! I have ever been in private practice and I have been operating my law office for six (6) years till date. Within this six (6) years as a young lawyer, I have handled and still handling more than sixty (60) cases which include several litigation matters in courts across the Federal Capital Territory- Abuja, such as: Area Courts; Chief District Courts, Chief Magistrate Court, High Court of the Federal Capital Territory-Abuja; the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Abuja; the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, Abuja and the Supreme Court of Nigeria (the matter at the Supreme Court of Nigeria is a new development which I am currently prosecuting). Majority of these cases are already concluded while a few of them are ongoing. More than thirty (30) cases of these cases are at the High Court’s level, while seven (7) of these cases are of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria (1 Judgment of the Court of Appeal has already been recently delivered while I am awaiting another Judgment!) while 1 of these cases is pending at the Supreme Court of Nigeria. All these cases were handled by me personally! These are just in relation to litigation and not including administrative representations before administrative bodies and other legal practices. I understand that I might only be required to need two (2) additional cases in the Supreme Court to qualify to apply for the rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), which I could meet up with in few periods to come, having met up with the requirements for the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Nevertheless all these achievements, I am yet to be fulfilled in the legal profession/legal practice (though I am very happy for having gone this far, with God!). I have proffered a number of legal opinions/advice to individual clients, corporate organisations and government’s institutions so far. Sometimes, I think of just applying for the rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria but sometimes, it seems God’s purpose which I have to obey as I have no reason or power to disobey Him is rather sending a great divine signal to me that ‘I am destined to be a Judge’ and be THE VICEGERENT OF GOD on the bench! I am forever submissive to God for whatever He chooses as the best for me even if I desire something else! Though, the time would tell God’s purpose in real sense as to whether I should be appointed a Judge of a High Court or that I should be in private legal practice as a lawyer and be a Senior Advocate of Nigeria! More so, God owns my entire life!
Until then, I shall continue to put in my best efforts and continue to pray for God’s guidance in all my endeavours! Throughout my entire life, I have known only God and no one (or human) but God! He brings those humans that He needs to fulfill His purposes in me close to me whenever He deems fit! The above narrations are just some few pages of my life experiences at the time when I was a young lawyer and this paper is my autobiography! I hope young lawyers gain knowledge from this piece, though challenges are still on, but I know that with God Almighty, all things are possible! I shall prosper and succeed in a very short time!
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