‘Law Practice Requires Focus, Patience and Commitment’
Please, give a brief introduction of yourself
My name is Ugochukwu Vincent Okoroafor. I am a Legal Practitioner. I attended Ebenezer Primary School and Ilogbo High School, both in Ebute Metta, Lagos. Thereafter, I attended the University of Benin, where I obtained my LLB (Hons), and subsequently, proceeded to the Abuja Campus of the Nigerian Law School in 2006, got my BL and was called to the Bar in the year 2007. Presently, I practice in Lagos - I'm in to general legal practice.
Have you had challenges in your career as a Lawyer, and if so, what were the main challenges?
Yes. The major challenges started immediately after my call to Bar. Most legal firms were ready to employ me under a pupillage, of course, without pay, and this posed a great challenge to me financially, as an upcoming Lawyer then. Secondly, even when some personal briefs began to come in after some years, I was soon to discover that most clients would rather you handle their cases for them for free (pro bono). Then, as an upcoming Lawyer, most of the Law Firms that I worked with did not have a standard library, and I had to make do with the High Court of Lagos State Library.
It is indeed noteworthy that, perhaps, by far the most daunting of the challenges any Litigation Lawyer may encounter in Nigeria, is the task of when and how to establish ones private practice, or to own a law firm and also become an employer of labour. This major challenge, is the bane of many Lawyers, and by the year 2012 when I decided it was time to be on my own, I had to face these issues.
What do you consider to be your worst day as a Lawyer?
It was the first time I lost a criminal case, in a technical sense. The client had opted for a plea bargain, so as to be given a lighter sentence, which of course was the payment of a fine.
What has been your most memorable experience as a Lawyer, so far?
The day I was able to secure the release of a Defendant, who was charged for murder. No sooner was the client released by the High Court of Lagos State from custody unconditionally, she was delivered of a baby on my birthday or thereabouts. It got me really excited.
More so, many years ago I appeared in Court for the arraignment of a client. The charge had alleged that, my client stood as surety for a person who was at large. My client had the option of applying for bail, pending trial - but, rather, I chose to object to the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain the charge in question. Therefore, immediately after the charge was read out to my client and before he could plead guilty or not, I objected to the arraignment on the ground that no man may be punished for an alleged crime in Nigeria, save for an offence known to law. I further argued that such an offence, for which a person may be arraigned under our Criminal Jurisprudence and in criminal proceedings, must be an offence known to law in a written form and for which the punishment for same must be prescribed by that written law, in accordance to the provisions of Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended. I knew that if the court should go ahead and adjourn for ruling on my application, that my client would have to remain in custody for a some more days or weeks, as the case may be. However, I took the risk, and fortunately, the court gave its ruling there and then, and upheld all my submissions. The charge was subsequently quashed, and my client walked home a free man on the same day of the purported arraignment.
I felt a sense of fulfilment on that day, because, sometimes, rather than abide by a particular law or proceedings in court, it's usually better as a Lawyer to test the law in any case, since the law is said to be dynamic and always in a state of flux.
Who has been most influential in your life?
After the most High God, I would say that my wife has been very influential in my life, and of course, the Late Chief Gani Fawehinhimi, SAN, was also very influential in my life.
Why did you become a Lawyer? I became a Lawyer to serve my nation, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and to contribute immensely and positively to the growth of the legal profession in Nigeria.
What would be your advice to anyone wanting a career in law?
My advice to them would be that, they should remain focused, highly dedicated and committed, very patient and very hardworking. They should also be God-fearing. They should never be afraid to start up on their own or to fail, whilst endeavouring to establish their own private practice. Every Lawyer is a potential success, if the highest standards required of a Lawyer by law is honoured, not in its breach, but in its true spirit and letters.
If you had not become a Lawyer, what other career would you have chosen?
If I had not become a Lawyer, I would probably have become a Journalist or a Clergyman. However, I thank God for whatever I am today. The making of a man is not by his success, fame or status in the society, but by the mercy and grace of the most High God.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? By God's grace I hope to be a Learned Silk in the next ten years. That is my ambition and my desire. I shall neither rest on my oars nor relent in my undying passion for excellence in my profession, and I pray that God in His infinite mercy, shall bring it to pass in Jesus name.