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AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION

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Amina Abugdanpoka Kaguah

Managing Partner, ENS Ghana

Why did you decide to study law?

I grew up in a village called Zuarungu in Northern Ghana. In my teens, I became friends with a family that I highly admired because every member of the family was well-educated. I later met the first son of the family, who was a lawyer. Although I had very limited knowledge of who a lawyer was, it became my ambition to pursue law. Spurred by my determination for a better life, I worked hard to obtain a place at a girls' secondary school at the time. Subsequently, I obtained admission to study law at the University of Ghana.

What is your proudest professional moment thus far?

Being hired by Cummins as Head of Legal. I had left my job to care for my husband, who was terminally ill. After he passed away, I was left wondering how I would restart my career and provide for our children. Landing the Cummins role gave me new confidence.

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Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?

I would have put myself forward for more opportunities. There were times I held myself back because I felt I was not qualified. Looking back now, I realize that I was actually qualified and could have taken advantage of more opportunities, although I am immensely grateful for where I am today.

Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.

As a woman in law, I face many challenges. One of such is that some people still expect the head of a large law firm to be a man. Once they see a woman walk into the room, they begin to be very dismissive of what you have to say.

Another challenge is that, as a mother of three, I have had to balance pregnancy and childbirth with the demands of the job. Although most employers have become a lot more intentional at ensuring that women who give birth are still able to do well professionally, this was not entirely the case in my time. For example, when I had my last child, I barely had the opportunity to take maternity leave. I had to work extra hard to ensure that I stayed on track professionally. This meant many late nights.

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What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?

It is important to establish a good network of contacts across various industries, particularly with regulators. Often, the way the law has been drafted and the way it works in practice are very different. By establishing a good network of contacts, you can quickly check how the law is being implemented in practice. Additionally, it is important to network.

Furthermore, you should always be well prepared for any meeting you attend. Even if it is an introductory meeting, you should go very prepared as that makes you confident, which will likely make you win the client. This is especially important as a woman since sometimes people have an inherent bias against you.
Also, be intentional about your career growth. Work hard and smart and make yourself visible in the organization.

Last but not least, love life and family.

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