‘Law is Not a Profession for Making Quick Money’

THISDAY Law Personality of the Week

By Akinwale Akintunde

Please, give a brief introduction of yourself?
My name is Benjamin Chukwuma Obidiegwu, Senior Partner in the law firm of Hermon Barristers & Solicitors. I am a law graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and
was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in December 1991. In 1996, I received a Master’s Degree in law (LL.M) from the Lagos State University specialising in Banking and Investment Law.

I am a fellow of the Southwestern Institute for International and Comparative Law, Dallas, Texas, USA; a fellow of Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (FCTI); Alumnus of the Management Development Programme for Legal Practitioners of the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos.

I am currently the Vice Chairman of the Capital Market Solicitors Association (CMSA). Associate Member Nigerian Institute of Chartered Arbitrators, Member International Bar Association; Member Business Recovery and Insolvency Practitioners of Nigeria, (BRIPAN). I am also a Notary Public of Nigeria. A Capital Market Consultant registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria, Member Section on Business Law of NBA.

I am a devout Catholic, a member of the Order of Knight of St Mulumba (KSM). I am also the President General, Nzuko Obodoukwu Clan, a clan consisting of five autonomous communities in Ideato North Local Government Area, Imo State.

I have in the course of my practice, dealt with a good number of complex and international legal transactions.

Have you had any challenges in your career as a lawyer, and if so, what were the main challenges?
Most of my challenging moments, were at very early stages of my practice. My bosses then, though they were young and very pleasant, had lot of expectations from you and as a junior, my resolve was not to disappoint them. Mr. Kukoyi would throw a big case file at you and tell you, I want your opinion on this before tomorrow morning. One had to work late into the night to put the opinion together.

The others were regular challenges; frustration with the court system, challenges with growing the practice, that is, getting in new briefs, managing your other partners and
some very difficult clients etc.

What was your worst day as a lawyer?
The day judgement was surreptitiously obtained against our client. It was when the Bailiffs came calling at our client’s office, that we knew what was going on. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. This was a high net worth client that we were nurturing. We were able to successfully set aside the judgement, but the damage had been done.

What was your most memorable experience?
The day as a very young lawyer, less than six month post call, I argued and got a Mareva
injunction against a very senior lawyer, before Late Justice Sahid of the Lagos High Court.

Who has been most influential in your life?
My Dad, late Chief Innocent Ok Obidegwu. He was a very brilliant and hardworking man. He instilled the virtues of honesty and service to humanity in my siblings and I. In my professional carrier, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, Acting President, Pastor, Dotun Kukoyi and Mrs. Floretta Kukoyi, had huge influence on me, especially in my very early years in practice. I had the privilege of learning the ropes from them. They were young, dynamic and very willing to train a young lawyer.

Why did you become a lawyer?
To fulfil a childhood passion, and to assist people solve their legal problems, especially the poor and vulnerable people in the society.

What would be your advice to anyone wanting a career in law?
I will definitely encourage the person, with a caveat to be patient and focused. Success in law practice comes over time. It is not a profession where you make quick money. It comes with experience and persistence.

If you had not become a lawyer, what would you have chosen?
Banking or working for an International Humanitarian Organisation.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In the next ten years, I will be part of a team that has successfully built a top tier law firm
and thereafter, will take up other challenges outside law practice, preferably mentoring for young people

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