From not wanting to be a lawyer to becoming a Partner at Banwo & Ighodalo, one of Nigeria’s leading Law firms, Kehinde Ojuawo’s dashed dream of becoming a wealthy accountant or diplomat was not so bad after all.
The bright commercial Law expert shares his journey to career success with Business Elites Africa in this interesting interview.
BEA: Many know you as an accomplished commercial lawyer, but I assume the journey to that feat was not a cakewalk. Share your growth story with us, starting from why you chose to study Law.
Firstly, people often find it surprising when I tell them that I didn’t set out to be a lawyer! While growing up, I believed I would make a good Accountant or Diplomat. I used to be a non-conformist and was set in my own ways, which were not always conventional. One of the first significant audacious decisions I took was to opt out of science-related subjects in year three of Junior Secondary School at the Nigerian Navy Secondary School Abeokuta, though I excelled at them. My father was disturbed by my decision, considering that the sciences offered me a wider variety of professional disciplines, typically regarded as prestigious. He had always emphasised the need for my siblings and me to study professional courses, which ensured that we could establish our own practices – individually or in partnership.
As a negotiated compromise, my father supported my decision not to continue with science-related subjects on the condition that I would study Law. It was an acceptable deal at the time since I was, and I have remained, a very ardent believer and advocate of social justice, fairness, freedom, and civil liberty. So, that was how I missed out on being a rich Accountant or widely travelled career Diplomat!
When writing the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board examination, after year six, I was already boxed-in and committed to studying Law from year three! However, I also learnt a lifelong lesson from this experience: with dedication and focus, one can thrive in situations where one finds oneself. Therefore, although I am still not a “natural lawyer”, I have managed to become a Partner in a leading Law firm. That experience has also helped dispel stereotypes such as colloquial statements, commonly made in my formative years, that only people who are loquacious lawyers make good lawyers! Now I know that with an analytical and logical mind – of course, among several other qualities – one can be a good lawyer.
BEA: In your early years in practice, were there experiences that made you doubt if you still wanted to pursue a career in Law?
Interestingly, even though I mentioned that I didn’t initially set out to be a lawyer, I decided to give my all to legal practice from the time I ventured into it. Yes, there were occasions when I had and considered offers to switch to seemingly more financially lucrative in-house roles. I realised that legal practice is prestigious, and it afforded me the opportunity to make a socio-economic impact, which is a value and purpose dear to me, and earn many more rewards which cannot be quantified. Most importantly, with perseverance, legal practice can be financially rewarding.
Perhaps, it has also helped tremendously that I have been fortunate to have been associated with the very best Law firms in my career.
Warren Buffett, the American business magnate and investment genius, attributes his monume…