Chukwudi Ofili, Senior Associate, Bloomfield Law Practice, Nigeria, shares details about his professional life in general and his ILFA experience with Trinity International LLP in 2018.
(Originally published on ThisDay Newspaper on 12th February 2019)
My name is Chukwudi Ofili. I am currently a Senior Associate within the Corporate, Finance and Securities Practice Group of Bloomfield Law Practice. Bloomfield is a specialist commercial law firm which operates out of Lagos, Nigeria.
I hold a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LLB) with first class honours from Babcock University, Nigeria, and a Master of Laws degree (LLM) with concentration and Finance from the University of Georgia School of Law, USA. I am currently awaiting my admission to the New York State Bar, after successfully completing the qualification requirements.
Before joining Bloomfield, I was an Associate within the banking and finance team, at one of Nigeria’s largest integrated commercial law firms. More recently, I was an Associate within the banking and finance team, at one of Nigeria’s largest integrated commercial law firms. More recently, I was an International Lawyers for Africa (ILFA) secondee, where I worked with Trinity International LLP, a niche commercial law firm in London. There, I worked with the Finance and Projects team on a number of international transactions, with focus on power and infrastructure projects, across the African continent. I also had a brief stint at the headquarters of The Coca Cola Company, Atlanta, USA, where I worked with the legal team on cybersecurity, imports and OFAC compliance issues.
Have you had any challenges in your career as a Lawyer, and if so, what were the main challenges?
It is generally agreed that to be successful as a Lawyer, apart from excellent legal skills and hard work, you need to have an entrepreneurial mindset and also have an ability to retain clients. As a young lawyer, it was difficult coming to terms with business development. The reality is that, most law schools and Bar admissions, do not provide any business training. This is considered outside the scope of educating students about the law. Most law firms in Nigeria do not provide business development training, and it was difficult for me to translate business development concepts that I read, into action.
For me, the first hurdle I had to overcome with respect to business development, was understanding the business side of practicing law. I needed to understand the economics of over-heads, the cost of accounts receivables, payroll expenses and a host of other expenses and a host of other business decisions. It became apparent that these skills, which I received little or no training on, are key to being successful in private practice, and making a claim to partnership in any law firm.
What was your worst day as a Lawyer?
During my first year as a Lawyer, I was assigned a case in court which was to come up for mention. I was to provide an update to the court, and then take a date for adjournment. However, there was a pending motion before the judge, and the judge insisted that I argue the motion. That was the first time I would be arguing a motion, and I was really scared as a first-year Lawyer. It felt like the world was caving on me. The good thing was that, I came prepared and had read the application, as well as the relevant rules of the Federal High Court. I successfully argued the motion and it was granted. The lesson was to always show up to any occasion prepared, read all relevant documents and laws, and pay close attention to detail.
What was your most memorable experience as a Lawyer?
My most memorable experience so far as a Lawyer was taking part in the highly selective ILFA 2018 Flagship Secondment Programme (IFSP), an annual international secondment programme, where Lawyers practicing in various African jurisdictions are selected and sponsored on secondment at highly reputed international law firms and corporations in London, Dubai and Paris. It was an enriching and exciting experience that included working on international transactions, as well as training programmes on business development and technical legal skills. The networking events provided an opportunity to meet some of the brightest minds in the international legal market, in diverse practice areas. The networking opportunities on a global scale were immense and may not be replicated on such a scale in the near future.
Who has been most influential in your life?
The most influential person in my life, remains my father. He taught me the virtues of resilience, hard work, perseverance, diligence, integrity and the quest for excellence. These continue to be the guiding principles by which I live by, and with which I conduct my daily affairs.
Why did you become a Lawyer?
In secondary school, I came to understand that the law is indeed, a tool for social engineering. My choice to read law was further predicated on the fact that, the development of any economy begins with proper legal and regulatory framework and policy. Within law, my particular interest is on issues challenging the advancement of emerging economies. As a Nigerian with limited resources, I know first-hand about the challenges of daily survival; as a Lawyer, I appreciate that a lot for the challenges can be addressed with a practical legal framework.
What would be your advice to anyone wanting a career in law?
My advice to aspiring Lawyers is to understand that the legal profession is very demanding and requires the highest level of dedication. It requires hard work, resilience, integrity and an unwavering desire to achieve excellence at all times. It is important to develop analytical sills, research skills, writing skills, interpersonal skills, and effective communication skills. In order to know whether you want to be a Lawyer, you need to understand what it is that lawyers do. It is advisable to do internships or shadow programmes in law firms to understand the different areas of law that will most likely suit your skill set and interests. Law is generally called legal practice, because practice and experience on the job, eventually helps develop expertise in the chosen field. You cannot jettison the role the first law firm or organisation you work for plays, in providing the foundation for your career growth. It is, therefore, important that you choose carefully, and consider career growth and a strong foundation at the onset, and not just the financial benefits (although that is also important). Finally, always remember that, law is a business.