When graduating from university one finds oneself in a bitter sweet predicament.
On the one hand you are ecstatic as you are now a graduate but, on the other you are worrying about your next step. Where will the tides take you as you embark on this journey called life? For a Nigerian law student, pressures often follow as you ask yourself: “Do I go back to the Nigerian Law School immediately?”; “Do I try and get a job in England? (But will Mum and Dad be okay with me staying in England?); “Will I do my masters here, prolonging the call from the motherland?”
Having encountered all of these questions, it is safe to say that post-university life is daunting and does sometimes seem limited. Limited because, what I often find is that talented Nigerian law students hold out on applying early for roles in the city or roles in England generally as they assume the inevitable: Being called back to Nigeria! This is a disadvantage because they may miss out on the guidance universities offer in gaining jobs in England and how to go about it. This is made worse by the student not having been in England for that long. It is scary and the prospect of learning the system and learning to integrate is daunting. Having moved to England when I was 11 years old, I have, perhaps, found the job hunting process easier than most might. But I understand why it may seem, to most Nigerian graduates, that it is a lot easier to go home.
However, Nigerian graduates are often unimpressed with the law firms in Nigeria. The pay, in comparison to that of the qualifying lawyer in the UK, can be very off-putting. Many feel they are not appreciated enough for their work.
Now, by no means am I advocating not returning back to one’s home country. However, I believe, that the options for a young law graduate in the UK are plentiful and, perhaps, students are not informed of this and so tend to limit themselves.
I take myself as an example. I thought that to have a legal career I was only limited to following the barrister or solicitor route. This was disheartening as I want to work in a business setting that requires working with technology but is connected to law. I grew to realise that sometimes universities aren’t very informative on the variety of choices open to law students.
So, from working at Africa Legal, I’ve learned that there are ways to work within the legal industry and gain experience without necessarily going down the strict legal route. This holds true for students returning to Nigeria. The technology industry is emerging and, if you can stand out by having worked for a tech company, or you can program, it can make you very desirable as a lawyer. Now, move that to the Nigerian setting and you can quickly be part of the generation that transforms the legal industry in Nigeria. In the end it will all be about ensuring you have that good basic qualification, then keeping your skills relevant and being ready to innovate.
Ikenna Henry Onyebuchi is a graduate from the University of Exeter with a Bachelor of Law with Honours in Law. He was born and raised in Nigeria, until he emigrated to England with his family when he was 11. He has recently worked as an intern with Africa Legal in London.