My secondary school teacher told me, after reading my essays, that I had what it took to become a lawyer so when I was faced with the choice between reading law or business administration at the University, I chose law.
I had exposure to the law growing up with family members in the profession. During my undergraduate studies, I found myself interested in the legal issues in my social sciences coursework. I recall in my law school application, I mentioned that I wanted to be able to help others build capacity and advise them on how to better negotiate and advocate for their positions, especially in the international development space. I came pretty close to that in practice. Now, as a lawyer, I like the intellectual challenge posed by the law, the range of issues and the different sides and arguments to different issues. But overall, I like the tool that the law presents for people, by knowing its limitations and the possibilities it presents, to help put themselves in a better position, whether through negotiating a fairer contract, litigating a claim, or advocating for change.
Equal doses of nurture and nature, I believe. I was raised to be confident in who I am, to love hard work and be helpful to others. I was also the child with a relentless curiosity, a love for debate, a rebellious streak and a deep sense of fairness. I would stand up to bullies and bring home “a stray cat” now and again. Everyone who knew me well said I would be a lawyer and I agreed. However, the actual decision was made in 1995 as I watched Hilary Clinton in her pink power suit on TV delivering her thundering defense of women’s rights as pivotal to human rights in Beijing.
One day, my mother bemoaned the fact that she did not study law as her father used to say 'all lawyers are liars". I was a bold, daring, and determined child and upon hearing that 'lamentation', I impulsively took a self-oath to be the lawyer 'that does not lie' and ran with that determination, against all odds.
After my mother talked me out of my dream to be a nun, I wanted to be a medical doctor. Unfortunately, I lost interest in physics and I knew my dream of having a stethoscope around my neck and attending to patients would not materialize. It was then that the idea of becoming a lawyer crept in. I vividly remember my dad’s wig in a black tin box with his name inscribed in gold on it and I longed to get one when I became a lawyer! Honestly, I cannot say at the time that I wanted to champion the cause of the under privileged in society or to right some wrongs. I just thought then that it would be “cool” to be a lawyer and have my name inscribed in gold on a black tin box!!
I was very outspoken as a child, and considered studying law later on in my teenage years as an outlet for my personality. I had the privilege of attending a premier All Girl’s boarding school in Ghana, where the focus was to empower young women; teach them to excel and to lead positive change for the benefit of the community at large. This training served me well and shaped up my view of the law profession as a calling; a useful tool to represent the vulnerable in society; to serve as a mouthpiece for those who needed one.
My decision to study law was made a day before my course registration at the University. I had gone to university with the goal of studying economics but I talked myself out of it after hearing about so many of my seniors in high school who had not made the grade in math in the first year to qualify to the school of economics. Studying law amplified the sense of justice that I believe I have always had. Being the oldest child in my family, I always had the responsibility to guide and direct my siblings and my opinion mattered a lot to them. I had to be careful that I was fair and impartial in my dealings with them to earn their respect.
My desire as a child was to be a scientist, to make novel discoveries, solve real-world problems and create technological innovations that changes lives. I initially studied for a BSc in Chemistry but changed to law because studying core sciences in a Nigerian University in the early 90’s fell short of my expectations – the equipment were dated and actual experiments quite limiting for a keenly hopeful aspiring scientist like me. So, I decided to study Law, a social science where I could work on real life problems affecting humans in a real life context, which satisfied the scientist in me.
As a child, I did not have any dream of becoming a lawyer. In fact, before my 6th birthday, - and I remember vividly - my dream was to be an ‘adowa’ dancer! Fortunately or unfortunately, I passed my A’ Levels well enough to qualify me to read law at the University of Ghana, Legon. That said, my real interest in the subject of law was borne out of my innate believe in fair and equal treatment of all persons in spite of their circumstances. I saw law as an avenue to achieve balance in society between the haves and have-not-so-much.
Looking back, I will say two major influences framed my decision to study law: (i) I grew up in Nigeria at the peak of intense military oppression, infringement on free speech and human rights. My role models were smart outspoken lawyers who criticized the government of the day. (ii) The other influence was from an encounter with a lawyer who defended my family in court after a horrible incident. It was only natural for me to follow in the steps of these "superhumans" who were working tremendously to make the world a better place.
I still have memories of when I turned 12, and motions of musing over admirable professions. My father is a lawyer and I recall comparisons often drawn of us two. Many considered we share similar traits: a passion for delving into books; poring over and finding solutions to issues; engaging in debates on a wealth of subjects leading to logical conclusions. By my latter high school years I became resolute about reading law, qualifying as a barrister and eventually using my legal and oratory skills in an international setting. Thankfully this fell within God’s plans for me - I have done just that.
I come from a family of eight girls and two boys. I recall in my younger years my Father encouraged me to pursue my education despite the cultural point of view that it was futile to educate a girl child. This early childhood support instilled in me a confidence in my capacity and ability and enabled me to pursue my dream of a law degree despite all the challenges I faced. I recall that when I was to get into the University to read law, the Professor in charge of admissions kept urging my Father to persuade me to study any other course but law because of my young age but I stood my ground, insisted I was going to read law and eventually the University accepted me for a law degree.