Over the years, there have been initiatives started up by different organizations and firms both at the local and international level which are all geared towards encouraging excellence and academic drive amongst students studying across the different institutions of higher learning spread across Nigeria.
Generally, there is no distinguishing factor between all these initiatives, since they all have one initiative in mind: to bring out the best in Nigerian students.
Furthermore, it is worthy to note that there is generally no specific programs for law students. That is, until I stumbled upon the SimmonsCooper Partners Advocacy Development Program for law students: the “SCAD”. The program, sponsored by one of the leading, foremost commercial law firms in Nigeria, a leap introduced by the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, when he was a Senior Partner with SimmonsCooper Partners, has the major aim of stoking deep interest among Nigerian law school students and university undergraduates.
How it Works
Each year, a problem scenario is created for the program, which is designed to test contestants’ legal knowledge, writing skills, and oral advocacy skills. Students nationwide are expected to submit their written briefs based on the given scenario. After a very “thorough” vetting process, the best ten briefs are chosen, and each of the persons that drafted the briefs will then come before a panel to argue their briefs before a panel of judges. From among this pool, the winners will then be selected.
What makes this so special?
Let us imagine for a moment that you, the reader of this article, are still a law student and you made a worthwhile effort to study the scenario, work on it, argue your brief, and then emerge a winner of such a competition before the watching eyes of top players and industry personnel in the legal services industry. Imagine being featured on top blogs; Facebook carrying your name on every law-related group; lawyers narrowing their eyes at you from both home and abroad as they watch you take your prize. And you, beaming with smiles when some of the topmost legal minds in Nigeria smile at you and then proceed to shake your hand and issue you with your prize. The tears misting your eyes at such an honor, gotten through a dint of sheer hard work and the will to beat out other (top) contenders for the crown.
Personally, I remember seeing pictures of Elizabeth Whesu taking the prize in 2016, with past finalists of the program: Kenneth Ononeze Okwor and Damilola Wright, alongside Prof. Yemi Osinbajo flanking her, each one beaming with smiles. And she, radiating with such happiness, I couldn’t help being so happy for her even though I had never met her. I remember a lot of people in the legal community talking about her.
It is worthy to note that the impact of the SCAD program is laudable. Past finalists of SCAD have all had extremely good things to say about the competition. Funny enough, I have observed that each of these finalists have all gone on to great leaps in their legal careers. At least personally, I am aware of the following persons (this is a summary of their positions at the time of writing this article):
Kenneth Ononeze Okwor: This burning mind has gone on to grab a first class degree from the Nigerian Law School and became an associate at Templars and also an adjunct lecturer in the Corporate Law department of the Nigerian Law School.
Damilola Wright: After SCAD, he graduated from the Law School and joined Aluko & Oyebode. From there, he joined the Banking & Finance Practice group of Banwo & Ighodalo.
There are other names and other persons I know of (the ones enumerated above were known personally to me), and each of these have gone up the career ladder, including one who has been called to the New York Bar (Stanley Uche Nweke-Eze).
From my personal perspective, I’d say it’s obvious that the program has helped to enhance the focus of their top finalists and winners, giving them a deeper appreciation of the Law and the writing aspects of being a Lawyer.
A Collaboration or Independent Competitions?
I believe that the mere fact that SCAD has been a yearly program for some years does not mean that there is no room for improvement. The improvement I have in mind here is a scenario whereby other top-rated and highly respected law firms across Nigeria, from Lagos to Abuja; Port Harcourt, Enugu, Anambra, join hands in floating similar competitions or collaborating with each other to bring about other diverse competitions that can test and hone the skills of upcoming lawyers.
These firms could introduce problem scenarios that cut across divergent areas of legal practice and even more novel areas like E-commerce advisory; startup IP & brand strategy/advisory; VAT and other tax-related areas of Law; use of Blockchain tech in the Banking sector; financial derivatives, corporate governance and company structure development, etc. The point is that the list is positively endless and can run a gamut of practice areas that can overlap/intertwine with each other. All these will help to greatly and deeply enhance the creative and problem solving ability of the upcoming lawyers, test their resilience and perseverance, and even expose them to the potential type of transaction experience they may have in due course when they finally join the legal profession.
Furthermore, I believe that this can create a potential candidate pool for future employment. If, for instance, AB Law (a fictitious top-tier firm in Lagos) were to host a tough competition under their ABL IP Development Program, and they have a pool of ten finalists, they can retain the names of these ten finalists (who must have been tough contenders for their prize out of a pool of close to a thousand competitors) in their database for future employment considerations if and when an opening arises within the firm’s IP practice group. It can potentially make the work of law firm recruiters easier while sourcing for top talent.
Finally, I believe in the training and mentoring of young aspirants to the legal profession. A diverse offering of tough competitions which are geared towards these aspirants’ professional development (and of course, attendant prizes), can help to bring out the best in these students to aim for the big prize.
About SimmonsCooper Partners
SimmonsCooper Partners (SCP) is a leading top-tier law firm with its offices in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria. SCP provides legal counsel, advocacy and services to national and multinational clients. Visit the firm here.
Learn More about Kabbiz Legal Marketing here.