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Christine Sijuwade

Partner, Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie, Nigeria

Why did you decide to study law?

My journey probably started after I read John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill” where the protagonist had to overcome various challenges in order to achieve his goal of exonerating his client. The strategies he employed, and his sheer determination revealed purpose to me. I didn’t end up practicing criminal law but, more importantly, I discovered that with the law, there is always room for growth and my areas of interest can continue to evolve.

What is your proudest professional moment thus far?

My proudest professional moment was when I was selected to lead the drafting team of the Technical Advisory Committee, chaired by Ozofu Ogiemudia, that was established by the 8th Senate to review and draft bills to repeal and re-enact the Companies and Allied Matters Act and the Investment and Securities Act. These pieces of legislation are critical to doing business in Nigeria and economic development, and I was extremely honoured to have been selected to contribute to the development of the legal and regulatory landscape.

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

We are the sum of our experiences and every step I have taken professionally, and the challenges that I have faced, have led me to where I am today. I am quite thankful.

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

As a young working mother, some of the professional challenges I have faced stem from balancing work and family commitments. I vividly recall having to join a major conference call to negotiate transaction documents on behalf of a client while in the hospital with one of my children. Thankfully, the negotiation was very successful, and the transaction was completed. Having the support of a great team as well as the ability to plan, organise, prioritise and multi-task will, therefore, always help with overcoming these sorts of challenges. There were times when tough choices had to be made, however, it was all worth it in the end.

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

Passion and determination are critical to survival in any profession, otherwise, it will be difficult to excel and put in the extended hours that may be required. Other strategies include having a strong work ethic, being teachable and enthusiastic and, most importantly, having an overwhelming and unapologetic desire to succeed. Achieving and maintaining work life balance is a delicate dance so it is critical that for women with families, we continue to manage and balance the expectations of family, clients and colleagues. My generation is fortunate because we can leverage on the successes of the battles that have already been fought and won by women that came before us. The benefit of seeking counsel from such wise women cannot be over emphasised. Lastly, it is very important to remain visible - which can be achieved by participating in industry-related capacity building initiatives and writing articles on topical issues.

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