‘Lawyers Require Integrity to Succeed, and Build a Worthy Reputation’
My name is Stephen Ifeanyi Azubuike, a Legal Practitioner and Social Entrepreneur. I work closely with Dr. Abiodun I. Layonu, SAN, FCIArb., and I am a key member of the Dispute Resolution and Commercial Law Practice Group at Abiodun Layonu & Co. I also work as an external Consultant to a number of fast-rising law firms. I obtained my Bachelor of Laws Degree (as an Elf/Total Scholar) from the University of Benin. I also obtained my Master of Laws Degree from the University of Lagos, shortly after my call to the Bar. I also have certificate trainings in Mediation, Mediation Advocacy and Insolvency Practice, amongst others. I am a member of the Business Recovery and Insolvency Practitioners Association of Nigeria (BRIPAN). I am the founder of Stephen Legal, an online platform, providing innovative legal insights and easy solutions in this information age. I am passionate about capacity building and leadership development amongst young people, and so, I serve as a volunteer at Prof. Pat Utomi’s Centre for Values in Leadership.
Have you had any challenges in your career as a Lawyer, and if so, what were the main challenges?
Yes. I have had a couple of challenges. As a Lawyer with core litigation experience, my greatest challenge is the slow pace of the judicial process, caused by a number of factors which include insufficiency of Judges, unchecked delay tactics by some Lawyers, and the inability of some Judges to firmly ensure that the judicial process is free from abuse and unnecessary adjournments. Absence of adequate and necessary courtroom facilities, and lack of optimal use of available ones, are also part of the challenges. Other challenges I experience, include the natural rigours of the profession which sometimes affect the time which ought to be spent with family and loved ones.
What was your worst day as a Lawyer?
My worst day as a Lawyer, was the day a High Court Judge refused to accept an Affidavit of Service which I sought to tender from the Bar, to show that the Defendant’s Counsel had been adequately served with court process, so as to enable us proceed with the case. The Judge’s reason was that, the said Affidavit of Service ought to have been put into the Court’s file the day before. Nevertheless, to my utter dismay, the learned Judge preferably adjourned the matter to roughly two months time, merely for report of service – i.e., to show proof of service – same Affidavit of Service! Thus, some needless strictness in the administration of justice, which ultimately goes to the detriment of litigants and not necessarily their counsel, should be avoided.
What was your most memorable experience as a Lawyer?
I will never forget the day I cross-examined a senior colleague, an intelligent and experienced Lawyer, who acted as the star witness on behalf of his company, in his capacity as the Company Secretary, in a multi million Naira suit at a High Court in Lagos. It was indeed, a great outing, as ultimately, we won the case.
Who has been most influential in your life?
Permit me to mention that growing up, and up until this time, my life has been greatly influenced by wonderful people whom God brought my way, my late parents – Chief Benedict & Mrs. Benedette Azubuike (God rest their gentle souls), my favourite uncle, P. J. N. Azubuike Esq., and other mentors and role models whom I have looked up to over the years. Nonetheless, and quite significantly, my boss, Dr. Abiodun Layonu, SAN has remarkably impacted in my life, thereby harnessing my potentials and moral codes; and ensuring always, that I become the best I can be. The Learned Silk gave me wonderful opportunities at the early stages of my career, and for which I remain eternally grateful today.
Why did you become a Lawyer?
I strongly believe that, I was born to plead the cause of men, and to pursue the cause of justice in a decent society. Becoming a Lawyer, avails one the best opportunity, training, knowledge and the capacity, needed to embark on this great assignment. By God’s grace, my ability and potentials in this field of endeavour, were discovered at a pretty good time, as far back as in my first year during my secondary education. I represented my school at different debating competitions and at moot court sessions, which were aired on the TV station back then, in the city of my birth, Maiduguri, Borno State, arguably one of the most peaceful cities in Nigeria, until recent times. Therefore, I became a Lawyer, to live my life dreams.
What would be your advice to anyone wanting a career in Law?
My advice to anyone who desires to pursue a career in Law, just like in any other life endeavour, is that such a person must develop a real passion for it, and interest too. The person must desire and work diligently, to acquire proper knowledge. Interestingly, a Lawyer is capable of working and fitting in quite well, into several industries and in various capacities. Beyond the traditional practice, there are numerous burgeoning areas of specialisation, which a 21st century Lawyer should be interested in developing and building capacity. Attention should be adequately paid, particularly on how technology is enhancing legal practice, considerably. Importantly, certain virtues, such as integrity is highly required, to successfully pursue a career in the noble profession, and to build a worthy reputation.
If you had not become a Lawyer, what career would you have chosen?
If I had not become a Lawyer, perhaps, I would have chosen to become a professional Footballer.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I see myself as a Thought Leader in my field of specialisation; and who knows? I sometimes see myself in the coming years, sitting as a Judge.