Lawyer of the Week – Efemena Iluezi-Ogbaudu
Our Lawyer of the Week is Efemena Iluezi-Ogbaudu. Born on 29 June, 1995, Efemena is a legal practitioner with keen interests in Dispute Resolution (Commercial Litigation and Arbitration & ADR) and Corporate Law (Company Regulation, Capital Markets & Finance).
He is considered a Teacher by many. However, he considers himself a Student and always seeks to learn as much as he can.
Follow our full conversation below!
Can we meet you?
My name is Efemena Iluezi-Ogbaudu. I’m a graduate of the University of Lagos and was called to the Nigeria Bar in December 2017.
As far as my legal career is concerned, I am keenly interested in Dispute Resolution (Commercial Litigation and Arbitration & ADR) and Corporate Law (Company Regulation, Capital Markets & Finance).
I consider myself a committed, driven and diligent professional with an uncanny ability to proffer ingenious solutions to the most complex of problems.
On a general note, I am passionate about Education. I served as a Corporate Law Lecturer at the Nigerian Law School during the 2017/18 session, I currently head the Education Sub-Group of the Legal Aid Community Development Group, Lagos State and I mentor students of the University of Lagos’ Alternative Dispute Resolution Society amongst others.
My other interests are in Art, Governance & Policy and Community Development.
What are your core areas of practice in law?
So far, Commercial Dispute Resolution (Commercial Litigation & Arbitration). I have been fortunate enough to gain maximum exposure in both areas, all of which is as a result of the trust my firm, Strachan Partners has placed in me even in relatively complex situations.
Occasionally, in order to stay in touch with my initial interests, I handle a few core Corporate/Commercial tasks, the most notable of which is advising a multi-million dollar Banana-Island based residence on internal governance policies aimed at balancing the interests of both the management and the residents.
Why Corporate Law?
Most people expect me to have a concrete answer to this question, however, I always disappoint on this front. I apologize in advance.
Why Corporate Law? One word, influence.
First, during my 2nd Internship at Consolex Legal Practitioners (now: CLP Legal), I was asked to conduct research on the rule in Foss v Harbottle and how it applied to a certain case. I eventually fell in love with the topic and that pretty much changed everything.
Next up was Company Law, a final year undergraduate course. I was fortunate to be taught by exceptional lecturers, especially Professor Ige Bolodeoku and Dr. Adewale Olawoyin SAN, who remains a role model till date. I paid attention in all their classes and made sure to learn all I could. They skillfully interrogated the most complex company law concepts and that laid the foundation for my law school experience.
In addition, I also authored my undergraduate dissertation on Minority Shareholder Protection and fortunately, I was supervised by Dr. Adewale Olawoyin SAN, an experience I would describe simply as life-changing!
In Law School, the experience was slightly different. I had a very comfortable time with Corporate Law Practice. Asides the topics that dealt with Capital Markets, I pretty much had a fair idea of everything in the curriculum. I was fondly called “Walking CAMA” because I could easily recall the contents of each section of the Act once the number was mentioned and the section where a particular rule was contained in. I emerged top of the class in the Corporate Law Campus test and in so doing, corrected a question asked and answering correctly. This, in particular, was a highlight of my law school journey!
Generally speaking though, I think I have a really good understanding of the practice area and its component concepts. Many times, when I am confronted with a question on an issue in the area foreign to me, I am able to think through using the basic principles to reach a correct conclusion. That excites me!
You were previously an adjunct lecturer at the NLS Lagos Campus. Kindly describe your experience?
Exciting. That is what it was, Exciting. From interviewing for the job to actual lecturing to marking scripts, it was exciting. I remember stepping into class the very first time, having to hold the microphone and address a class of 1300+ students. It felt weird being on the other side of the class but after a few minutes, I got a hang of it. Also, the constant positive feedback I received from the entire class kept me going regardless of the late and sleepless nights I had to get accustomed to.
Ultimately, my desire has always been to give back to as many and contribute to the development of my immediate environment, of which the students at the Nigerian Law School was part of. I remember while I was at law school, close to 90% of the class had issues with Corporate Law Practice. Before I joined the team, I had conducted a survey and discovered that the 2018 set had the same problem. Coming in, I needed to, as much as possible, resolve that problem and I believe I did that to the best of my abilities. In all, my drive is my desire to contribute to the lives of others. In the words of Albert Einsten, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
How easy/challenging was it for you to kick-off your practice?
Thankfully, not challenging at all and I owe it all to God really. I literally slipped into my firm, Strachan Partners from Law School. I applied a week after Law School, got called in for an interview the next day and got offered the job two days after!
I have been fortunate to work for the best bosses in the business. Mr. Charles Adeyemi Candide-Johnson SAN has been nothing short of amazing. It cannot get any better really. Also, the Head of my Practice Group, Aaron Onyebuchi has been very helpful as well as the rest of the team at Strachan Partners. It’s one big family with common values and objectives. The exposure levels are unreal and that is key to the development of any professional.
On the Academic front, Mrs Adetoun Adebiyi is a rock. She believed in me like no one else and trusted me to deliver despite the odds. She was firm when she needed to be, but on most days was supportive, warm and kind.
The only constant drawback I have encountered is the initial impression senior lawyers and the public generally has of younger lawyers. On more than one occasion, I have been looked down on because of my age and supposed lack of experience. However, I let this work for me and surprise them with my output. At the end of the day, the same people leave very impressed with my work.
Unfortunately, not many people give you the chance and that’s where the biggest problem lies. Although, I acknowledge the place of experience, I do not think that your age or experience alone prevents you from excelling in a merit-based activity. To suggest that will be preposterous to say the least.
What is your view on the current state of the contemporary legal education in Nigeria? Any way forward, where need be?
I think it’s shambolic and that is me putting it nicely. Beyond our flawed and outdated curriculums, I think the standard of teaching personnel is nothing to write home about. I think that the key to being a good teacher is the ability to transplant your understanding of a particular concept into the minds of as many people as are listening. This involves having the charisma, the ability to engage and the ability to explain even the most complex concepts. Many law teachers lack this. I can count on both hands the number of above average lecturers that have taught me and for a graduate of the University of Lagos and the Lagos Campus of the Nigerian Law School that is disappointing. I can only imagine what graduates of less reputable institutions have to say.
On the way forward, I think the very first step is to redesign our curriculum to deal with modern day realities. In addition, the employment assessment of teachers should involve performance-based activities. Prior to my employment with the Nigerian Law School, I had to teach a class of 23 law students and 1 non-lawyer. I was made to explain key concepts of a Mergers, Takeovers and Acquisitions to all of them after which I had to answer questions from any area of the Corporate Law Practice curriculum. The entire exercise was impromptu! The 24 of them graded me and their average was my assessment score! This needs to be adopted by more institutions!
Beyond this, educational facilities are still sub-par nationwide. Classrooms are deplorable and Libraries are down to bare bones. Improvements in this area is necessary if there will be any positive development.
Corporate law is beginning to please the eyes of more law students and young wigs as a fitting area of practice. What, in your opinion, is the reason for this?
I think it is down to the inefficiencies of our Administration of Justice system. Dispute Resolution is not the most enticing of practice areas. Lawsuits go on for as long as five years without a resolution and nobody really wants to spend a quarter of their career litigating a single dispute. I have had the privilege of coordinating the Lagos Backlog Elimination Programme where we are looking into old cases, the cause of the delay and how to dispose of them expeditiously and I can tell you that the practice on that front can be horrible.
Also, courtrooms are uncomfortable and inflexible. Most aspirants to the bar have noticed this and have decided they would rather stay in the office and handle paperwork instead.
In addition, many of the top firms are more into Corporate/Commercial Law practice and as such, it is a major area of focus at the moment. It is more or less, the trend and it’s not surprising to see young and inexperienced individuals following the crowd.
On a personal note, I am neither here nor there. Broadly speaking, I enjoy both Corporate/Commercial Law and Dispute Resolution and just try to do my best at every given opportunity.
A couple of accounting firms are beginning to offer ‘legal services’, particularly in corporate and commercial related matters. Does this make corporate lawyers an endangered species?
In a presentation I delivered at the Obafemi Awolowo University, I discussed this in detail. Quite frankly, it has to be stated and stated very clearly that lawyers are an endangered species. Unfortunately, the law does not make legal services in the Corporate-Commercial space exclusive to legal practitioners alone. Competition is rife now and it’s a good thing because it means that there is a better chance of higher quality services in light of increased competition.
My advice to my learned colleagues however is for us to build our competence to ensure we can offer more than the non-lawyers can. We understand the law better, we need to show that understanding and show ourselves learned as we are professed to be.
Do you have any mentors/role models?
Quite a number, actually! Mr Charles Adeyemi-Candide Johnson SAN, Dr Omogbai Omo-Eboh, Mrs Sola Adegbonmire, Dr Adewale Olawoyin SAN, Dr T. Odusote, Mrs Gbemisola Odusote, Mrs Adetoun Adebiyi, Mrs Oluwakemi Eweje, Aaron Onyebuchi, Mr Greg Nwakogo and Folahan Adebayo Ajayi amongst others. While I communicate more with the younger ones on my list, I occasionally reach out to the older ones when I can.
I think role models and mentors are very important. Rather than start off your journey from the scratch, they guide you and ensure you do not stumble where they did.
How do you take a break from your tight schedule?
I give back. Law School every Thursday was a break for me. I used to say jokingly that the only job I had was the one with Strachan Partners. I could teach law for years without getting paid. I enjoy it. Asides teaching law, I am actively involved in Church where I just joined the Teenagers’ Church as a teacher. Yes, I have to teach! I am also the President of the Education Sub-Group of the Legal Aid CDS Group of NYSC Lagos State. I have executed several projects already including a Career Day for schools in Lagos, a Law Clinic for traders and inhabitants of the Lagos Mainland Area and we are currently in the process of raising funds to fuel our project to free innocent inmates at the Ikoyi Prison. I enjoy these things.
On a personal level, I like to just sit and talk to friends, listen to good music (all genres), play video games and spend time with my family.
Any specific counsel for prospective practitioners and young lawyers who have the desire to break grounds in the Corporate practice?
Unfortunately, Corporate Law in practice is fundamentally different from what is taught in schools. I have said in several forums that the Nigerian Legal Curriculum does not cater for the modern day demands of corporate law practice. However, the underlying principles remain the same.
It is important to have a fair understanding of as many commercial courses as possible, especially, Contract Law, Commercial Transactions and Company Law. A good understanding of these areas will provide a firm enough foundation for anyone looking to delve into the depths of corporate law practice.
In addition, due to the vast nature of this practice area, aspiring practitioners will need to constantly read up for recent legal developments and cover as many sub-practice areas as possible before specializing some years into their practice.
Also, reach out to practitioners who are willing and able to mentor you. Mentoring is so important in this time and age.
In conclusion, it is extremely important to set defined goals and stay focused on those goals, to be determined to achieve those goals and remain resilient in the face of any challenges and finally to believe – in yourself and your ability to accomplish those goals and also in something much bigger than you. In my case, in God Almighty – Yahweh!
Thank you for your time!
Thank you for having me! It’s been a pleasure!