AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION
Managing Partner, Sefton Fross, Nigeria.
Why did you decide to study law?
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.
What is your proudest professional moment thus far?
When Sefton Fross won the ESQ Award for Oil and Gas Team of the year in 2014 . The Firm was just a year old, thus very new, very young and already making great strides. This confirmed that hard work and dedication is indeed the key to a successful career.
Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?
I often wonder at the impact I would have made, had I completed my Chemistry degree and gone for a Master’s degree abroad in Applied Sciences. I However, I love being a lawyer, and believe I am making impactful contributions and changing lives, one word at a time.
Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.
As a child, my mother taught me that to succeed, you must be twice as smart, competent and resilient as a man. This lesson has been the driving force of my entire career. Even in a changing world, expectations from male and female leaders differ - a man is expected to be decisive, assertive, authoritative and powerful, while a woman with the same qualities is seen as something unsavoury. Many people (even other women) would still rather do business with men than women, and when they do involve women, they expect them to defer to men. Many still get intimidated by the inner strength, courage and determination of a strong woman. These issues permeate the entire workspace infrastructure, from staff to suppliers, colleagues and prospective clients. Remaining true to womanhood while refusing to fit into the mould cast for me, is the true challenge of my career.
What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?
My father taught me that hard work, dedication and integrity are the key attributes to a successful career. My mother taught me that to succeed I must be strong, dare to be different and fight for what I believe in. These lessons have shaped all my strategies for survival in the professional world. First in servicing clients, the key goal for me is not money, but client satisfaction – if you do an excellent job, you are committed to your client, you are reliable and clients trust you, money will come. Build a strong foundation - let people know who you are, what you stand for, what principles guide you. In so doing, you build a reputation and your reputation determines the brand of your business. If you stay the course and do the business long enough, people will look for you and this reputation will generate business for you.