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YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM: ‘No more job space for young lawyers’

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YOUNG LAWYERS’ FORUM: ‘No more job space for young lawyers’

Onuegbu Jennifer Enuma obtained her LL.B from Madonna University, Okija. Enuma now turned baker, was called to Bar on 15th December, 2015. In this interview with JOHN CHIKEZIE, she shares her foray into the noble profession

 

Background

My name is Onuegbu Jennifer Enuma and I am from Ekwulobia in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State.

I had my primary and part of my secondary school education at CITA International School, Port Harcourt, Rivers State. I also attended Hallel College, Port Harcourt, Rivers State to complete my secondary school education.

I hold a Bachelor of Law degree (LL.B) from Madonna University, Okija, Anambra State. I proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Yenagoa Campus, where I was called to the Nigerian Bar on 15th December, 2015.

I am also 26 years old female entrepreneur. In 2016, during the end of my service year, I took a short course on Cakes and Bread in Port Harcourt. With the little travel opportunity I had in 2017, I took another course on Baking and Cake Arts.

I currently own a bake store in Port Harcourt and I am also running a Masters’ in Business Administration.

 

What nurtured your decision into studying law?

I never wanted to be a lawyer. My daddy of blessed memory wanted me to be one. The legal practice was not my dream career.

Well, I always had a passion for artistry. Creativity has been my dream and still is.

 

You read law to please your dad. Is that one of the reasons you’re not a practicing lawyer?

No! That’s far from it. I didn’t have an interest in law while growing up as a child. But then, I went to the university and Law was my intended course of study, even though it was due to my daddy’s influence. I also didn’t do so badly as a law student. As a matter of fact, I was listed for Law School the same year I graduated from the university. And I was called to Bar at first attempt. Bottom line, I took the challenge of studying Law and I put it to good use; I developed an interest at some point and decided that being a lawyer wasn’t so bad after all. I decided it was okay to be a practicing lawyer.

 

What major challenge/s drifted your interest?

 

It was difficult getting a job as a lawyer. At first, when I got a job as a lawyer, I worked like an elephant and was paid like an ant. My pay couldn’t foot my transportation even for a month. I maintained the job for two months or thereabout. My colleagues who were there before me didn’t get a raise, so they left with time. It was really hard for me. I needed a job, but most importantly; I had a single mom with five other children to cater for.

 

She had raised two graduates at that time, and had four to go.

 

The pile of stress was more on her. My job wasn’t helping either. I stayed jobless for almost 3 years after my call to Bar.

 

I made countless job applications, but most firms wanted experienced lawyers. I was hoping to start, but I still did not fit their description.

 

I decided staying home was not the best idea. It was more like the whole Law thing had failed me. It was telling on me, my relationship with my family and I was gradually fading away. I mean, I never wanted to be a lawyer, this was my daddy’s dream, and half way into studying, my dad passed on.

I struggled to overlook all that and got called to the Nigerian Bar, only to get my really high hopes crushed. The enthusiasm and zeal died. I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t maintain the “I AM A LAWYER” appearance. So, I decided to start the baking business full time.

 

 

How did you cope with the school pressure while at the law school?

I didn’t exactly have any option. We lived under pressure at Madonna University, so living with the pressure at the Nigerian Law School was normal for me. I had only little adjustments to make.

 

How has the journey been so far, especially in business, outside legal practice?

 

I wouldn’t say easy, I wouldn’t say difficult. It’s been fun. I get to do a lot and get to meet people who are also into business. I have had to experience total failure, setbacks and disappointments. I have also had some really victorious moments. So far, so good, the journey has been worth every sweat.

 

What changes would you like to see in the legal profession?

 

Honestly, the entire system doesn’t favour young lawyers. Times have changed, so the legal profession needs to embrace changes too.

 

Many of us spent close to 7 years to be called to the Nigerian Bar and at the end get subjected to “Let an older lawyer do the Job, you are inexperienced” syndrome. How do we acquire the experience when we never get the opportunity to practice in the legal field? If the older wigs do not create space for the new wigs, how can we advance?

 

I respect the legal profession so much that I personally feel honoured to be a lawyer, but it’s time to make a change.

The legal profession has not really done much for many of us young lawyers. And there is no yardstick to measure or curtail these complaints. Many of us have passion for law practice. At least my first attempt to getting a job was as a lawyer. So, maybe I didn’t have an interest in studying law, but since I did after all, I still made it out.

 

However, considering the cost of education in Nigeria, how much more the cost of raising a Lawyer? These days it’s almost like the Nigerian Law School provides much more lawyers than the society needs. There are no job spaces to accommodate us. When we find a job, the job experience required knocks us out. Many of us ladies get harassed, even some of the men amongst us. And when we choose to manage the situation, it gets worse and unbearable. I personally feel the system should be worked on. Let some people be put to rest, while others be given an opportunity to practice.

 

They say the future belongs to us, yet more than half of us have lost faith in our future as lawyers.

 

Changes as to age restrictions, tenures, sexism, and a lot more should be implemented and enforced. Even if not for us, at least, for persons who are yet to study law and children whose parents would still force to study law.

 

 

Would you go for law practice if opportunity ever presents itself in the future?

 

Yes, I would still love to practice, even now. Presently, my colleagues incorporated a Non-Governmental Organization – Star Advocacy for African Women and Children. I was made the Executive Director (Country Projects).

 

I didn’t want it at first, because I knew it would take a lot from me and my business. I took it anyway.

 

This added responsibility became even more important to me, especially when we kicked off our first project for “Malaria and Cancer Awareness in Anambra State” and I had to address female secondary school students.

However, in all things, I am so thankful. I am not the lawyer I decided to become, but I am not far from the goals I set.

 

 

What is your view on today’s judiciary and arraignment of members of the Bar and Bench?

 

The dispensation of justice and arraignment of both the members of the Bar and the Bench, I must say, is fair even though there have been several instances of conflict in the reconciliation of statues: the Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Act (Decree 21, 1994) and Legal Practitioners Act CAP L11 LFN 2004 as amended (Chief Andrew Oru V. Nigerian Bar Association and 2 Others).

 

There have never been doubts that the dispensation of justice and arraignment of the roll, is in accordance to the provisions of the Legal Practitioners Act CAP L11 LFN 2004.

 

Therefore, the investigative body and the disciplinary committee set aside by the provisions of Section 10 of the Legal Practitioners Act CAP L11 LFN 2004, as amended, is responsible for investigating and dispensing justice for both members of the Bar and the Bench where there is an allegation of infamous conduct.

 

The judiciary has done a good job in checkmating legal practitioners as well as the general conducts of the Bench though there are still loop holes and lacunas to be filled.

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