On this edition of our “Lawyer of the Week” series, we feature Bolaji Fasehun, an Executive Associate at Bloomfield Law Practice, who currently leads the firms Firm’s Energy and Natural Resources Practice group. Our conversation surrounds the energy law practice, the importance of graduate school for young lawyers and so on. Read the full conversation below.
Can we meet you?
I am Bolaji Fasehun, a graduate of the Faculty of Law, the University of Lagos, with a Master’s degree from the School of Law, University of Warwick, United Kingdom. I am currently an executive associate at Bloomfield Law Practice. I am the team lead of the Firm’s Energy and Natural Resources Practice group.
How many years post-call experience do you have and how has been your journey so far?
I have 8 years post call to bar experience. My post call career started at Akindelano Legal Practitioners where I was keenly involved in the dispute resolution and litigation practice. I had a brief stint as a Research Assistant to a justice of the Federal High Court. I also worked at Detail Commercial Solicitors before joining Bloomfield Law Practice. The road thus far has been invigorating and illuminative. The practice of law requires constant self-development and a need to be conversant with all aspects of commercial endeavor. All in all, it has been an interesting journey.
What area(s) of law do you specialise in and informed your decision(s)?
My core focus areas are power, gas to power, infrastructure and oil & gas. I got engrossed in the power sector at the height of the power privatization process in 2013 when the Federal Government was trying to divest itself of certain generation and distribution companies to the private sector. It was a completely new experience for me at the time and I became enthralled with the intricacies of the sector, the regulatory regime and the interplay among the project documentation.
I always had an inclination for energy law right from my undergraduate years and I am glad that I was exposed to this area of law. I have advised on a number of energy related transactions both on the developer and customer side of the spectrum.
What skills do you consider necessary for young lawyers who wish to delve in this/these field(s)?
I would say research skills are crucial for young lawyers who are keen to delve into energy law. Young lawyers have to be aware of the ever-changing dynamics of the energy sector particularly from a legal regulatory standpoint in order to be up to date with recent trends and adequately advice clients.
Additionally, the importance of being a good draftsman cannot be overemphasized. As with other areas of commercial law, there are a plethora of contracts which govern relationships among participants in the energy sector. A good understanding of those contracts (and their implications) will enable young lawyers protect their client’s interest in relevant contractual negotiations.
What do you regard as major highlights of your legal career?
A major highlight for me was when I worked at General Electric Healthcare (“GE Healthcare”) in the UK. I was part of a team that made a presentation to the Board of GE Healthcare on the legal regulatory framework on the implementation of new business frontiers in healthcare. My team was tasked with the responsibility of identifying business modules that would be strategically relevant to GE Healthcare, specifically, determining growth opportunities arising from the increasing focus amongst Healthcare Providers in improving Patient Satisfaction.
Prior to my engagement at GE Healthcare, I had no exposure to the business of healthcare. Working at GE Healthcare had its challenges particularly as it was new area for me but my experience there enabled me to view healthcare in a different way. My experience further underscored the importance of a lawyer being versatile to offer value irrespective of specialization.
You have a Master’s Degree from the University of Warwick. How has this experience impacted you?
I had an awesome experience at the University of Warwick. I had a few years of experience prior to the Master’s programme which made the journey more fun for me. I was able to better understand certain concepts of commercial law and interact with the course lecturers on my experience working on transactions.
The Master’s programme was quite tasking but pushed me to challenge myself and explore other sectors of commercial law which I had no knowledge of. For example, my dissertation focused on the Regulation of Private Equity in the US and the UK. I challenged the regulation of private equity transactions by the American Dodd Frank Act and the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive arguing that both regulations were a barrier to corporate investment. I earned a distinction for my arguments in the dissertation.
How important is grad school for young wigs? When do you advice young lawyers to get a higher degree?
I believe that a post graduate degree is important for young wigs who are looking to specialize in a particular practice sector. This should however be predicated on such lawyer having some relevant experience in an identified sector where the lawyer seeks to specialize in. An ideal period to procced to graduate school, in my view, should be after 3 years post call experience in a very busy.
The Presidency has so far delayed in signing the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill into law. What’s your opinion on that and what effects does this have on Energy and Natural Resources legal practice in Nigeria?
The delayed signing of the PIGB has occasioned a delay in commercial decision making in the oil and gas industry. A primary consideration for any stakeholder in the industry is regulatory certainty. The stakeholder wants to be assured that it has properly considered the impact of applicable laws and regulations on its business undertaking and fully provisioned for same. In the current Nigerian situation, this is very difficult to do. Imagine a scenario where an oil producing company takes a Final Investment Decision (FID) today and the PIGB is signed within a week after with a significant change to the existing law; the company in that scenario is immediately in a quagmire. It is for the reason expressed above that we have had a dearth in operations in the oil and gas industry in the past few years. As a result, we find that government revenue has remained stagnated resulting in difficulties in meeting budget commitments and other fiscal obligations of government.
Any final words?
I would leave a few words of encouragement for young lawyers: there are no insurmountable challenges and despite what seems to be a glut in the number of available legal practitioners in Nigeria, there are abundant opportunities for distinction. A lawyer must always be ready to offer value from the perspective of the client – he achieves this by rendering advice which addresses the practical solutions for the queries of his client.
Thank you for the opportunity.