“What’s the point?”… “I won’t make it anyway”… “Why would law firms pick me over others?”… “I’m never going to get a 2:1 or a first”… “I’m not intelligent enough for this”.
These statements sometimes run through my mind and if you’re a law student, you may have had similar thoughts. I’ve never been the most intelligent student or someone who just “gets it”. I take my time and ask questions until I understand.
I was once on the verge of being suspended from school, with no motivation and poor grades. With little hope for the future, I hadn’t considered university an option. But after passing my WASSCEs, I began to believe in myself and was accepted to study law at the University of Abuja.
My first year was overwhelming and even now, entering my third year, I still have negative thoughts. But it’s natural to feel inadequate and wish you had the same grades or as much work experience as others.
I’d never have imagined myself having a barrister as a mentor or working with a judge. But these achievements didn’t just happen – I worked hard.
Here’s some advice I wish I’d followed from the start of my journey into a law career:
- Don’t compare yourself to your peers
People often question their chances of success compared to the top students. There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition, but constantly comparing yourself to others means constantly undermining yourself.
Shola Ibukun a law student at University of Benin, says: “It’s so important to make sure you concentrate on your own progression. At the end of the day, it’s your degree – not theirs.”
- Be yourself
Students hear this constantly, but it’s natural to change the way you speak in front of legal professionals. However, many law students do so in a way that makes what they’re saying incomprehensible.
Folu Abodurin, a barrister for the Assured solicitors firm, says: “Many professionals enjoy an ordinary and relaxed conversation rather than people trying to impress them – always have a few interesting or memorable alternative topics up your sleeve”.
A family judge once told me the finest barrister he ever met was one who spoke as if he was in casual conversation – he was straight to the point and easy to understand. Keep calm and remember, they’re people just like us.
- Remind yourself of how far you’ve come
Everyone, at some point, feels like giving up. Kevin Edidiyong, a law student at the University of Calabar, says: “Whenever I feel like I can’t keep going I talk to friends on my course about it. They usually feel the same way and it’s easier to motivate each other”.
You may feel like giving up because you received a grade you didn’t expect or you’re just generally fed up. But remind yourself of how far you’ve already come – the fact you’ve made it to university and are studying law is an achievement in itself.
I think back to my early experience in education and remember how much I’ve progressed, which motivates me further. There’s always something to be proud of.
- Have a goal
Studying law can be tedious and seem endless, so ask yourself why you’re doing it and what you want from it.
Blessing Madu, a former barrister and law lecturer at the Nigerian law school, says: “You’ll only do well if you’re doing the right course in the right place. You have at least three years of hard work to complete and it’ll be easier if you enjoy the subject and like where you are”.
For many students, their main goal is a career in law. Personally, I also want to prove a few things to myself and this has helped me through my first two years.
- Be consistent
You’ve probably been told by your tutors to complete seminar work. There’s no point doing it one week then not bothering for the next two weeks. Consistency in your study schedule is key. Admittedly, I didn’t do seminar work in first year and was clueless when it came to exams.
But I did it in second year and flagged up anything I didn’t understand to my tutor. This helped considerably during exams. I felt more confident and understood the content with greater ease. Changing your attitude in this way could be key to your success.
- Keep looking for opportunities
You may find you’re attending endless networking events and leaving without having gained much. But make the most of these events by asking for email addresses, handing out CVs and asking for work experience.
Legal professionals attend them to help us and if you don’t ask, you won’t know what might have come of it. The worst they could say is no. I attended a bar networking event and came out with work experience and a new mentor. Opportunities don’t need to be confined within law; you never know what one event could lead to.
- Remember, it’s not impossible
Law is competitive and fierce, so maintain a realistic mindset if you wish to pursue it as a career, but don’t let the competition discourage you.
Oyenkachi Monye, a law student at the University of Nigeria, Nssuka, says: “Law is a fantastic, challenging and respected degree. If you genuinely have an interest in law and the ambition to achieve, you’ll make it through to the end”.
Don’t give up because you’re afraid of the challenge and competition. It’s difficult, but with self-motivation and optimism, not impossible.