22 Aug 2019

Interview - Ayodele Ashiata Kadiri

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Associate at G. Elias & Co. in Lagos, Nigeria.

Ayodele Ashiata Kadiri

Tell us a bit about yourself and what attracted you to law?

My name is Ayodele Ashiata Kadiri. I am a lawyer at a leading Nigerian law firm, G. Elias & Co., where I am a member of the disputes and technology, media and telecommunications practice groups. I represent clients at arbitral proceedings and court sessions. My non-dispute work cuts across acquisitions, finance (capital markets), and regulatory compliance. When I am not busy being a lawyer, I am either writing (fiction and non-fiction), reading a book or editing an article. I enjoy meeting new people and having meaningful conversations. I also like to try out new things – a new recipe, genre of literature, and so on.

I was attracted to law because of its versatility. The field of law affords me the opportunity to satisfy my quest for knowledge in every sphere of life. You could be representing a construction company in a dispute, and you would need to familiarise yourself with the construction processes to properly present your client’s case in their pleadings. Or, you could be advising an investor interested in acquiring a stake in a financial services company, and would need to have a good grasp of the company’s operations to ensure that the legal documentations properly capture its commercial and operational realities.

In terms of your career choice, who has had the biggest influence?

It is really difficult to tell, but I would say my parents. I was generally considered to be one of the best in mathematics at secondary school, and it was expected that I would choose a science-based profession. Back then, top graduating students were automatically considered to be best suited for the sciences. I had a different view.  I thought that studying subjects from the arts and humanities did not mean that the person was unintelligent. So, I focused on subjects from the arts and humanities. My parents did not interfere with that decision. I was accepted into the University of Lagos, Nigeria, to study law – having made distinctions in the requisite subjects in secondary school. That was it.    

What did you learn from your secondment?

I learnt a whole lot. First, it helped me recognise my interest in disputes, particularly arbitration. I experienced hearings in two arbitral matters and at the Supreme Court. I received an Honourable Mention at the first Intra-Africa Award Writing Competition organised by the Association of the Young Arbitrators in 2018. I also joined the Young International Arbitrators’ Group of the London Court of International Arbitration. I hope to become a more active member in the near future. Second, it helped me recognise the aspects of my interpersonal skills which needed improvement. I learnt to make great conversations with strangers, a skill that has come in handy a lot since I returned from secondment.

What is the greatest achievement, and the biggest challenge, of your career?

My greatest achievement is yet to come – that is not to say that I am not grateful to God for how far I have come as a legal practitioner. I celebrate every single deal and case I work on because it means I am solving problems.

I think that the biggest challenge I have had is balancing my interests in disputes and transactions and sharing my time as a member of the disputes and the corporate commercial teams. At first, I felt like I lacked focus and clarity. However, I am able to bring a unique perspective from my background in disputes when negotiating agreements, because I have a clearer insight on potential legal issues that could lead to disputes. Nonetheless, the current practice of the legal profession favours specialisation and I am not sure that my peculiar circumstances can be recognised as “specialisation”.

In the next five or ten years, what do you hope to achieve?

Last year, I set long-term goals (and even took some steps in the first half of the year in line with those goals). The second half of the year has barely begun, and some of the said goals have fallen through. So right now, I am back to the drawing board to see if there is something that I should be doing differently or not doing at all. Whatever I eventually decide, I hope to play a huge role in spearheading reforms for the legal system and the legal profession in Nigeria. 

Name one person who inspires you, and why?

Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli. She is a solution provider. From Sahel Capital to AACE Foods to LEAP Africa, she is steadily impacting lives. I really admire her competence, courage and tenacity.

What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers?

I would tell them to be kind to themselves. It is not an easy journey and it would be a lot more worthwhile if they do not dwell too much on their mistakes, or what they should have done differently.

Given Nigeria’s growth in the last 5 years, where do you see the most opportunities for the legal industry?

In Nigeria, the most opportunities would be in infrastructure projects, energy, finance and tech. Projects because Nigeria is experiencing infrastructure deficit, and requires substantial development and public amenities/ utilities to cater to the needs of its teeming population. The lack of steady power supply in Nigeria is a menace to its development and the private sector is finding ways to solve the problem. There is also the sustainability aspect of energy; the global trend favours the use of renewable energy. Infrastructure and innovation require finance, whether by traditional or alternative finance providers. Finally, there is so much innovation and disruption arising from technological advancement. Although regulations may catch-up with the innovations, there is no doubt that the legal industry will need to be ready to manage any resulting skirmishes.

How do you think the legal profession will develop in the next 10 years?

It is a bit unclear especially with technology and its “disruptions”. Everything is evolving very fast and what we understand “work” to mean is changing quickly. Nevertheless, I think that there may be less stringent conditions for practising across jurisdictions – the practice of law may become “globalised”. I also think that lawyers may also have to acquire formal training in the industry they will be specialising in. For instance, a lawyer who is advising on cybersecurity law may also be required to have undergone some formal education or acquired certification in cybersecurity.

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