The Deacon as Mr. Dele Adesina SAN is fondly called by close friends and associates was invited by students of the Nigerian Law School under the aegis of the NLS Splash to a mentoring and interactive session with students of the Nigerian Law School on 19th May, 2020.
The students were most grateful for the opportunity to engage with the Learned Silk and you can read some of the excerps below –
MY EXPERIENCE AS A LAW STUDENT
I was at the Law School between 1981 and 1982. Let me say straight-away that my Law School experience was a little challenging. First, I was residing very very far away to the Law School, which put me under an obligation to leave the house not later than 4:00 am otherwise I will not get to the Law School before 9:00 am – the resumption time. At that period, Lagos was not as we know it today. You could only access the Island through Carter Bridge and Eko Bridge. So it was war getting on the Island.
However, the dream of becoming a Lawyer was the greatest driving force that propelled me every day and every time and I believe the same motivation is with you today. This of course is a great dream. It is my prayer that you will actualise it and become successful Lawyers, faster than I did.
The experience at the Law School was nothing much other than to sit-down to read and ensure that you pass well. In spite of the challenges of residence, going from Agege to Victoria-Island, due to the strong determination that I had, I got what I purposed, which was not less than Second Class Upper Division.
I encourage you as individuals and as a group to challenge yourself and finish with very high grades. Do not settle for any grade but finish the Nigerian Law School Programme in flying colours.
PAST EXPERIENCE AS A YOUNG LAWYER
As a young Lawyer, I had the privilege of serving pupillage at the law firm of Chief Adedoja Adewopo & Co. in Lagos. To the glory of God, I cut my teeth for a sound private legal practice. I was able to learn the ropes and acquire the relevant skill. Even at that stage and period, I knew already that I substantially along with God are the architects of my destiny and the same goes for each and every one of you.
The beginning may be rough but the end will be very great. You may experience pain in the course of the journey but the gain is waiting for you if you will not mind the pain. If also you will not mind the price you pay – and this price can be in various forms such as inconveniences arising from inadequate or no remuneration at all, pressure and so on, then I assure you that you will certainty winà the prize. I recall vividly that my office was in a small kitchen converted to an office to accommodate me in the Firm. Today, I have what can be described as an imposing office at the strategic Business District of Ikeja, Lagos State. I served pupillage for six (6) years without drawing salary for one (1) month, but today, I pay salary to so many individuals. It is all about having the right vision and the willingness to drive that vision to success. The truth is that the only thing that starts from the top is the grave.
In my opinion, nothing encourages and sustains the practice of Law than the scriptural truth that states “Never despise the days of little beginnings.”
EXPERIENCE AS A LEARNED SILK
Let me state this, it will blow your mind, “the higher you go, the cooler it becomes.” This is very true of the Legal Profession. The top is cosy and it is sweet but you must fight your way to get there. I took the Silk in 2007, precisely about thirteen (13) years ago. Let me state that even before I took the Silk, God has enabled me to make some level of impacts. I remember a client once told me that why should my charges be more than the charges of a Senior Advocate. And without mincing words, I told the client that I know the services I was going to render; both in terms of the knowledge of law relevant to her matter but more importantly on the strategy I was going to deploy to her case. So, whether as a Silk or outside of it, the issue is that you must make an impact – a positive impact and these can come through your mastery of the law, the hard-work you put into it and of course, the grace of God upon your life in the Profession.
Once you are noted as a bold and courageous Legal Practitioner who is ready at all times to uphold the truth and defend the truth, your success will be assured. The fundamental responsibility of the Lawyer, for me, is to seek justice and defend justice at all times. In the words of Honourable Justice Oputa, of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, now of blessed memory, “Justice is much more than the game of hide and seek. It is an attempt, our human imperfection notwithstanding, to discover the truth”.
The Senior Advocates are by practice and by convention are regarded as the Leaders of the Bar and Leaders in the Profession. Again, for me, leadership is responsibility. The men of the Silk, speaking generally, have made and are still making positive impacts in the Legal Profession. Very recently, the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria which is the smaller organisation that the Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) belong to in addition to being members of the Nigerian Bar Association, are taking giant steps in the discharge of their responsibilities as Leaders in the Profession in the areas of enhancing the quality of Legal Education as well as Practice through the introduction of a Scholarship Scheme for students of distinction, who will in turn serve as sources of inspiration to other students. I happen to be the Chairman of the Scholarship Sub-Committee of the Body and I know as a fact that they also provide sources of employment for junior Lawyers; and a good number of them are also mentors to upcoming Lawyers.
ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE YOUNG LAWYERS
The future is bright for those who are prepared to make the necessary sacrifice to arrive at that future. You don’t wait to get there, you start today because tomorrow is actually a function of what you put into it today. If there is anything you take-away from here, it should be the word “VALUE.” In everything, your primary consideration must be value. Can you add value or can value be added to you? You must always seek to add value in every circumstance you are conscripted into. The only thing that will ensure not just your success but your longevity in the Practice is if you are consistent in adding value, either to a law firm as an employee, or to your client as their Lawyer. You should also endeavour to take steps to increase your capacity to add value by whatever means such as online courses and continuing Education; so that your value increases in time. The future belongs to those that can add the most value.
Still on my advice for prospective young lawyers, four (4) things that you must take note of and apply to your life situation are as follows:
I call them Four (4) existential Factors for Success in Life:
The First is PURPOSE. You are presently at the Law School, I will take it that you have defined your purpose in life; in other words your vision in life, where do you want to be in the next ten (10) years – twenty (20) years? And how do you want to get there? The greatest tragedy in life is not death but life that fails to achieve its purpose. Your dream must not only be clear to you, but you must also have a clear picture of what the dreams are. This is because your future is a function of your picture.
The Second is PATIENCE. Like I stated earlier, the only thing that begins from the top is the grave. You must begin from the beginning and you work yourself patiently to the top. Of course there is a gestation period which varies from one Lawyer to another depending on several factors including but not limited to circumstances of birth and willingness to accept responsibilities and personal development. A lot of patience is required to grow.
The third factor is your PASSION. This involves putting everything you have into what you are doing. No half measure. You pursue whatever assignment you have with the totality of your being as if your very life depends on it. Whatever you have passion for, you can never be tired from doing it.
Thomas Payne said: “I love the man who can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection.” A passionate man on a mission has no regard for any pain, trouble or distress that he meets on his or her journey. The truth is that such obstacles or challenges readily become stepping stones to a passionate man.
Finally, the fourth factor is PERSISTENCE. And this where the secret of successful Legal Practice is. Education is good; skill is also good but experience is the key. Neither education nor skill can buy experience.
Dele Adesina SAN