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Personal career development

The legal profession as practiced in Nigeria, once a gentleman becomes a legal practitioner properly so called, he takes learning shelter in the four walls…

The legal profession as practiced in Nigeria, once a gentleman becomes a legal practitioner properly so called, he takes learning shelter in the four walls of a law office to harness and improve legal skills. This does not mean that a lawyer is barred from establishing a law firm after graduating from law school, but it is advisable that one learns under the supervisory watch of a more experienced learned colleague.
However, the working environment in some law firms that young lawyers find themselves is not encouraging, some pay meagre stipends as salary, some owe workers salaries for months. Some don’t even see the importance of paying monthly wages to the lawyer on the ground that the lawyer is learning from the firm, and this affects the psychology and morale of the young lawyers, such that they seldom see the need to give their best to the development of the law firm.
A young lawyer, irrespective of the firm he finds himself, must appreciate the importance of personal career development and device means while still under the employ of another of improving his legal practice. It doesn’t matter if you stay in a firm for 10 years or more, or even less, what is paramount is finding a means to develop yourself.
“Unfortunately, perseverance is just not part of some people’s genetic make-up”, they breakdown at the slightest bit of stress and immediately move into the complaint zone, paying less attention to what they can do to personally improve their legal practice and more attention to what they are not getting from the law firm.
It is worthy to note at this point that this writer is a firm advocate and believer that law firms should cater for the welfare or at least, help alleviate the economic plight faced by young lawyers under their employ and not subject them to harsh unbearable working conditions that give young lawyers cause to doubt why they came into the profession in the first place. But then, when the desirable is not available, try to make best use of the available.
How then can a young lawyer develop his practice while under the employ of another? Familiarise himself with law reports on a particular principle of law that may be popular usage in the firm. A lawyer who finds himself in this kind of position can solidify himself in that principle of law by reading decided cases and how the courts interpreted same.
One can also engage in online courses for legal practitioners on different sections of the law. There are a lot of online networks that can be beneficial to the personal development of a lawyer. They offer online courses though not in law but in areas that may be of good interest to the lawyer if one becomes a member e.g YALI network (Young African Leaders Institute).
Read books that deal with areas of law that interest you, it is possible that the focus of practice of the law firm a young lawyer finds himself might be slightly different from what he has in mind, the best way to develop that interest of law is to read the books that border on the subject.
Make personal analysis of cases handled by you in the firm, this would help in two ways; first it keeps the lawyer up to date as regards the case so he can proffer viable solutions when called upon by the principal. Secondly, it helps the lawyer appreciate how to build a case from scratch to the stage of appeal without missing much.
A wise man once said, “Behind every cloud is a silver lining” and I quite agree.  A young lawyer who knows his onions and what he wants to achieve in the profession (i.e long term goals) would not let the office treatment affect his personal practice, but then, if the working condition of a law firm is so bad, to the extent that personal career development would be impossible to achieve no matter the resilience and perseverance of a young lawyer, then I suggest anyone found in such unfortunate environs should start looking for a better place before one turned into a slave lawyer.
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