Bukola Bankole and Christine Sijuwade
Bukola Bankole, an alumnus of the University of Lagos, began her legal career with The New Practice (TNP) in 2011. In June 2019, she became a partner and now leads the firm’s Private Equity team, as well as other roles in Corporate Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions.
Three important skills in Bankole’s career have largely contributed to her becoming a partner at TNP.
“The first is building technical competence and a keen interest in the law. This, for me is the foundation on which everything else is layered. Without a solid grasp of your core as a lawyer, rising through the ranks becomes difficult. You need to be known and seen as a good lawyer – starting with your peers, and then gaining the trust of the partners, in your legal abilities. You must also pursue excellence, and continually look for innovative
ways to do your job.
“Next is client management and business development – you can never think of yourself as a bench-warmer. Your clients must know you, they must trust you, they must want to call you and they must enjoy working with you. You must have the ability to attract new profitable clients, retain existing ones and develop trusting relationships with them. You
will eventually see your clients sending you more work, which translates into you adding value to your firm’s business and bottom-line.
“Thirdly, is the need to have the right work ethic. Do you follow laid down rules at your workplace? Do you exemplify your firm’s culture? What level of respect do you show your peers and others? All of these become a part of who you are, and shows the strength of your character. It defines your identity and, herein, leadership is born.”
Christine Sijuwade has worked with Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie (UUBO) since 2007. She is also an alumnus of the University of Lagos and obtained her LLM from the University College, London (UCL) in 2009. Her core areas of practice are Private Equity, Corporate Advisory and Mergers & Acquisitions. She also focuses on business and capacity development, and mentoring a younger generation of lawyers.
Sijuwade was elevated into UUBO’s partnership in July 2019. She reached this peak because, she says, she made some deliberate steps along the way.
“The ability to adapt, in terms of managing multiple assignments and working under varying conditions, as well as leadership/management skills, all had a significant impact on my career and trajectory within the firm. I decided early on in my career that I would be relevant and invaluable to the firm by constantly adding value, while at the same time ensuring the continuous development of my skills and knowledge.
Over the years, my relationships with other Nigerian lawyers and in other jurisdictions have added more value. For example, I have been privileged to work as a visiting/foreign associate at two London-based law firms.
“I have also had the opportunity to work on capacity-building initiatives and training organised by my firm and within the legal services industry - such as the 2018 UUBO Private Equity Summit and the 2019 Business Law Conference (NBA-SBL) - all of which have helped me in honing additional soft skills which are, undoubtedly, required to excel as a leader in the legal profession.
“The legal services industry is increasingly competitive and, therefore, lawyers and law firms have no choice but to be innovative in the delivery of legal services otherwise extinction could be imminent.”
To young lawyers, working mums and students, both partners agree:
“Making partner is beyond shutting off work on Fridays to resume on Mondays. Think and breathe the business. This is the ownership mentality that changes everything. Create opportunities for your clients, take on external leadership roles that can increase your firm’s visibility and your personal brand.
“Understandably, there are always personal emergencies and family commitments. In such cases, you must learn to manage the people around you, particularly your clients, supervisors and colleagues.
“There is a reward for the sacrifice you put in and tough choices you make. So the question is, how badly do you want it? Your answer will be what drives you to give nothing but your very best.”