Toluwalase Victor-Ogbara chose to enhance her legal career by pursuing her Masters in International Commercial Law at the University of Bristol. She spoke with Africa Legal about the keys to having a successful legal career.
After Toluwalase obtained her Bachelor’s in Law from Obafemi Awolowo University, she worked at a top tier law firm in Lagos, Nigeria, before deciding to pursue her LLM in 2021. “My quest for knowledge was one of the major reasons why I decided to go for LLM; it’s a career path for me and will lead me to what I eventually want to do,” she said. “For me it was a gateway to many things that I see myself being involved in in the legal industry.”
Asked to share some advice with young African law students, Toluwalase said “The first piece of advice would be to believe in yourself. If you don't see the goldmine in you, no other person will see it.” The second piece of advice she offers is to cultivate your emotional intelligence. “You need to really understand people; you need to understand the work culture, and that also is not taught in school. Most of these things you have to learn yourself.”
Toluwalase says that sometimes you need to be open to receive critical feedback which then becomes your responsibility to distil and work on. Networking is also a vital tool and led to some of Toluwalase’s job placements. “When we talk about networking, we’re not talking about just waiting for events, meeting people exchanging numbers; we're talking about making contact with people who matter in your profession, or your peers or the people that you know who know more than you do. Networking has helped me to get opportunities that I would probably not get on my own.”
Toluwalase believes that mentorship keeps one accountable and provides guidance, helping one avoid mistakes in the profession. However, she acknowledges that it’s often hard to get this mentorship in the workplace where everyone just wants to get their work done and meet KPIs. She advises young lawyers to look outside for mentorship if they can’t get it at their workplace, but to never, at any point in their career, be without a mentor. “You need somebody to hold your hand in the professional culture. A mentor helps you to make wise choices and implement them.”
What are the top three skills young African lawyers need? Toluwalase cited confidence, emotional intelligence and resilience. “Resilience in this context means that you need to have a positive attitude. You need to look for meaningful opportunities yourself. Resilience helps you to be emotionally stable, mentally stable, and you need that a lot, especially if you’re moving from Africa to the UK.
“In the end, I want every young African lawyer to know that they have what it takes to be a key player on the global legal stage. They should not give in to any pressure or anything that suggests otherwise. In you lies the intellect, the capacity to be whatever you choose to be,” she emphasised.
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