Ajoke Halima Olawuyi was always at the bottom of her class in elementary school. But she turned things around to bag a Second Class Upper at the University of Ilorin and win a prize for excellent performance at the Law School. Olawuyi tells ROBERT EGBE her story.
Fourth of seven kids
My name is Ajoke Halima Olawuyi. I am from a family of nine and the fourth of seven children, two boys and five girls. I am from Irepodun Local Government Area (LGA) of Kwara State, although I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in Lagos State. My dad is a legal practitioner while my mom is a labour officer (Inspectorate) with the Federal Ministry of Labour.
From bottom of class to First Class
I attended St. Catherine’s Model School, Surulere, Lagos and graduated in 2005. My primary school experience was a life-changing one because I was always at the bottom of the class and in 2003, I was asked to repeat primary four. I cried so much from the embarrassment, but I realised that this made me a bit more serious about my school work. I later enrolled at Maryland Comprehensive Secondary School, Maryland in 2011.
I graduated from the University of Ilorin in 2017, where I obtained my LL.B with a Second Class (Upper Division) Hons. degree. Thereafter, I attended the Nigerian Law School, Lagos Campus in 2018 and obtained my B.L degree with a First Class. I was called to the Nigerian Bar in November, 2018. I am also currently an Associate member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK).
Accompanying dad to court
My dad is a senior lawyer in the legal profession. Although I accompanied him to court on a number of occasions when I was younger, I always had to sit and wait in the car till he was done with his court session. However, in recent times, I have had the privilege to attend some probate sessions with my dad and it has been very enlightening.
I would have been a writer, if I hadn’t studied Law
Contrary to popular conception, my parents did not influence my decision to study Law. My interest in Law developed from a movie I watched one day. Also, I discovered at an early age that I reacted differently to situations of oppression, especially rape. If I had not studied Law, I probably would have been a writer, because that is the next best thing I do. I have written a couple of poems and I am presently working on my first book.
Law School was intense
I always refer to law school as a different phase in my life unlike any other time because my experience there was “intense”. I went through Law School with a mind-set of “do or do”; I had a goal and I was determined to achieve it. I decided I had to read every topic before the class and this gave me an idea of what would be discussed in the class. It also made it easier to understand each topic while it was being discussed in the class. After the 20-week lecture, I still continued to read at every opportunity I got in preparation for my examinations. I had a small reading group as well when the exams were closer. The only other thing I did more than reading was praying.
I would not describe Law School as challenging, rather I would say it was tasking, so, coping with Law School just means you have to find time to cover up the coursework. I had a reading plan and this helped me to organise my schedule.
I also had extra time on my hands for other activities like hanging out with friends, watching TV shows and movies.
Call to Bar
My family was even more ecstatic than I was. Everyone was proud of me and that made me feel really special. The day of my Call, I had a little party and all my family members and friends of the family turned out for me. I got a lot of cash gifts from my uncles as well.
I was one of the recipients of the (Nigerian Law School) Director-General’s prize for First Class students in 2018.
Challenges young lawyers face
In my opinion, I think that young lawyers would have complicated issues with their seniors because the legal profession is one you learn while you are at the job, as you will often hear lawyers say that ‘practice is different from academics’. However, when a young lawyer makes a mistake, some senior lawyers would rather resort to making fun of you instead of putting you through. This is a demeaning practice that most times messes with the self-esteem and confidence of the young lawyer.
On the issue of remuneration, I believe the pay given to young lawyers is not encouraging. Another important issue is that clients do not trust young lawyers enough to believe they can handle their dealings competently and this is not always the case, which is why you will find that your first clients would most often be your family.
Marrying a lawyer?
I have not given the issue of marriage much thought but when I decide to get married, the occupation of my partner would not be one of the factors I would consider.
What I would change about the legal profession
I know this issue has been resounded a lot of times but the delay in our country’s justice system is absurd, unwarranted and can be absolutely manoeuvred if all technicalities are cut off. Since the ultimate aim of the law is justice, I find it unjust that delay is used to deny litigants justice.
Also, no human is infallible. When the Supreme Court discovers that there has been a miscarriage of justice, it is only right to recall the parties so as to ensure that so many other persons do not suffer from its decision due to the practice of stare decisis.
The court system should be more ICT-oriented as the practice of keeping files is tenuous and archaic. There should be changes in the court environment as the courtrooms are in a dilapidated condition.
I look up to my dad. He is and will always remain my mentor in the legal profession, majorly because he is a man of integrity who is genuine and sincere in all his dealings.
I also look up to the Director -General of the Nigerian Law School for all his achievements in the academic area of the legal profession.
SAN, Professor or Judge?
I would choose to be a SAN in the future when I am qualified to be.
My plan for the future is to work hard on my career growth and let all my contributions to the legal profession speak for me. However, in the nearest future I aim to obtain my LL.M in the aspect of law that has spiked my interest.