To move ahead, you must see ahead. To succeed in today’s legal marketplace, let’s see how the legal-job market looks like in Nigeria. I begin with an overview of Nigeria’s legal marketplace in numbers. Before relying on the numbers below as legal advice, here’s a legal disclaimer: The figures hereinafter below are unofficial figures and thereby all figures therein shall not be relied upon as legal advice whatsoever by any juristic or nonjuristic person howsoever hereinafter.
After about 5 years of closely following trends in Nigeria’s legal marketplace regarding legal jobs, below are my findings:
- Less than 30% of fresh law school graduates get employed in the first 1-3 years;
- About 50% end up underemployed in the legal industry; and
- About 20% drop their wigs and gowns to take up nonlaw-related jobs; start an LLM program; become conditional sole practitioners; or start a business outside legal practice.
Since Nigeria hardly takes data seriously, you must be wondering how I arrived at the estimates above. In the face of little or no data for law-graduate employment in Nigeria, the best I could do was consider 7 relevant variables and do abracadabra:
- The average number of Law graduates from Nigerian universities and graduates from the Nigerian Law School for the past 5 years;
- The average rate of legal-job vacancies published in newspapers, online, and notice boards in Nigeria;
- The professional LinkedIn profiles of up to 1000 fresh law graduates in the last 5 years;
- The average number of legal-job applications by lawyers with post-call of 1 to 5 years to both Big Law and Small Law;
- A general estimate of lawyers that go for law interviews when an entry-level legal job is advertised both offline line and online;
- The average number of young lawyers who attend both Bar meetings and Young Lawyers’ Forum meetings hoping to get a placement in a law firm or the legal department of anything; and of course; and
- The official (and unofficial) rate of youth unemployment among graduates in Nigeria among graduates.
My Challenge to the Nigerian Law School and Law Faculties in Nigeria
By the way, I challenge the Nigerian Law School and law faculties in Nigeria to release statistics showing their law-graduates employment rate for the last 5 years or any number of years since 2000. Any caring and progressive Council of Legal Education in the 21st century should readily have this. I wish to be pleasantly surprised.
For law students and young lawyers in Nigeria, it’s a big challenge in the legal marketplace.
- Big Law pay relatively big but job vacancies are low;
- Small Law pay little but vacancies are not as low as they are in Big Law;
- Legal departments of public agencies are not getting bigger; career inhouse counsel are not retiring in good numbers;
- Academic-career opportunities are slim;
- Legal education in Nigeria trains law students to become employees, not well-equipped solos and independent legal professionals. This is not limited to law discipline alone.
So the question to law students and lawyers is this: Are you really prepared for today’s highly competitive, dynamic, and demanding legal profession?
Many law-firm partners, senior state counsel, and in-house counsel in both public and private companies don’t think so. Even clients are no longer impressed. NBA cannot deny this reality. And this is why NBA keeps singing the need for lawyers to take continuing legal education more seriously. But it has remained a song. This is because for some years now NBA has practically been a singer, not a doer in today’s legal marketplace. But that’s for another day.
Becoming a 21st-Century Lawyer in Today’s Legal Marketplace
To become a 21st-century lawyer in today’s legal-writing marketplace, law students and young lawyers must:
- adapt to a new legal economy to get ahead as professionals;
- do a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Strength) analysis to reposition themselves;
- learn to succeed as 21st-century lawyers should; and
- upgrade from being I-shaped lawyers to T-shaped lawyers.
The 4 steps I have outlined above have formed part of my presentations to both law students and young lawyers in Nigeria. Here, I will focus on adapting to a new legal economy.
Adapting to a new legal economy
Don’t strive. Thrive.
Repositioning yourself in today’s new legal economy requires you to adapt to clients’ expanding needs. As clients’ needs are changing every day, so must the level of your adaptation as a lawyer. Adapting proactively is what repositioning is all about, not striving to survive. Thrive.
Times are changing. Lawyers need to change too.
Clients have become more sophisticated and now expect lawyers to add real value to their businesses and affairs in an accessible, professional, and efficient manner with effective and excellent communication.
Some areas of law you should take interest in.
- As global crude oil prices drop, the Nigerian economy is gradually diversifying. In the process of diversification, non-oil sectors are coming up fast.
- Entertainment, financial services, power, and telecoms are growing fast in Nigeria. This development has resulted in the increasing need for regulation and corporate advisory for lawyers.
- As Nigeria’s market expands, foreign investors will also continually need quality legal advice before taking decisions on Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and private-equity portfolio investments in the country.
Civil and Criminal Litigation
- In civil litigation, old civil procedure rules are giving way to new ones across the country, giving rise to the demand on lawyers with modern written-advocacy skills.
- Criminal litigation is not any different. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 has significantly changed the dynamics in Nigeria’s criminal justice system, along with the computer-evidence friendly Evidence Act 2011. Lawyers’ knowledge and skills will continue to be in demand as old acts become new crimes.
- Nigeria’s fast-growing mobile and web technology is also creating new opportunities. e-Banking, e-commerce, and e-governance are changing the way we do private and public businesses.
- To effectively regulate her cyberspace, Nigeria will have increasing need to enact new laws. Already, Cybercrime (Prohibition, etc.) Act 2015 is now the governing law on cyberspace as far as electronically-related criminal offences are concerned. Nigeria will need cyber lawyers.
- Nigeria’s entertainment industry will continue to grow, creating new opportunities that will increasingly create intellectual property rights (IPR) in Nigeria.
- The need to adequately protect and exploit IPRs such as copyrights, designs, trade secrets, trademarks, and patents will continue to increase.
- Entrepreneurs, creative businesses, companies, and industries will increasingly demand IP protection services. This demand will create opportunities for lawyers who specialize in IP.
- Technological innovations will keep pushing the boundaries of IP, requiring both IP- & IT-oriented lawyers who can provide rare insight doesn’t just solve legal problems but also create business opportunities in IP exploitation.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
- ADR has been growing fast in Nigeria—pretty fast in the last 10 years.
- Many law firms now have active ADR-practice departments.
- Privately established ADR organizations or bodies now provide ADR services and professional training.
- New civil procedure rules are increasingly recognizing ADR settlements and integrating ADR into the court system.
- This ADR growth is creating new opportunities for both young and senior lawyers (including retired judges) who have acquired the relevant skills to take professional advantage of ADR. You can take advantage of this area too.
- With the increasing focus on tax revenue by both federal and state governments in Nigeria and their fall in oil revenue, demand for lawyers who are specialized in tax will gradually increase.
- As both local and international companies transact in goods and services across borders, tax lawyers will be continually needed by companies to help them safely and smartly navigate the murky waters of tax laws and regulations.
- For the tax lawyers in both the private and public sectors, adroitness and expertise in legally minimizing clients’ tax liabilities will be highly rewarding.
- And for tax lawyers in tax-revenue agencies, skill in ‘unveiling the mask’ of tax avoidance to expose tax evasion will be highly rewarding too.
…. and many other emerging areas of law you can take advantage of.
Apart from the 6 major areas of law I have identified above, there are other areas of law you can take advantage of.
The law is wide. You only need to widen your imagination to discover the opportunities that abound. But you must be prepared to take them. Preparation is key.
Open your mind. Browse Legal500.com. Read Legal 500’s Legal Market Overview for Nigeria. Take interest in Big Law—Baker McKenzie, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, etc. A global view of lawyering and law business will help you open the window of your mind. Never close it.
Close up on your legal career by repositioning yourself today.
Whether you are a law student or young lawyer, reposition yourself today.
Today’s legal marketplace rewards lawyers who position themselves rightly, not lawyers who wait for our legal regulators and professional bodies to reposition themselves rightly. Get hold of your future today.
Secure your future by taking charge of your legal career. Prepare yourself. Open your mind to learning and unlearning—and unlearning will be the difficult part.
Change your paradigm. Be positive and get involved. Embrace excellence. Build ethos. Do stuff. Network. Reposition yourself. Today.
I leave you with an infographic:
Senator Iyere Ihenyen is the Lead Partner of Infusion Lawyers.