Legally Engaged is a career resource center for law students, graduates and young lawyers; the first of its kind in Nigeria. We provide previously lacking information, tools and guidance to enable users manage their research and maximise their chances of successfully entering the legal profession.
The workings of the legal profession in Nigeria are still a mystery to the average law student, and the law firms in turn complain about the quality of lawyers.
Yimika Adesola is the Founder of Legally Engaged. She shared her story with Alaba Ayinuola of Africans Building Africa on how her mission is to unmask the legal profession in Nigeria and thereby create better lawyers. By ensuring that people identify their passion early enough, and deploy the appropriate tools to make something impactful of that passion.
- Tell us about yourself and your business
I am a corporate lawyer, working in Lagos, Nigeria. I established and managed social enterprise called Legally Engaged; it is a career center for law students and young lawyers. The current geographic concentration is for law students and lawyers in Nigeria (and to a larger extent, in countries that have strong economic ties to Nigeria).
As a result of some of the difficulties I encountered and even some of the mistakes I made at the onset of my career in law, I set up Legally Engaged to provide previously lacking information to empower students to make better decisions when choosing a career path.
Legally Engaged provides insight into the practice of law in Nigeria and ancillary issues. We provide information on internships and Associate positions, possible practice areas and career paths, further education, day-to-day tasks of lawyers practicing in different fields, as well as interviews and weekly articles on topical issues affecting (aspiring) lawyers.
A key aspect of the Legally Engaged initiative which appears to be the most popular is the Legally Engaged Mentorship Programme. Under the programme, we pair law students and young lawyers with more experienced lawyers who provide them with guidance on a one-on-one basis.
Our overall mission is to demystify the legal profession in Nigeria with a view to grooming better informed lawyers who are able to maximise potential at an early stage without expending time and effort in unproductive ventures.
- How much did you need to start your business and how were you able to raise that capital?
Establishing Legally Engaged was not capital intensive. The most significant costs were for registration, branding and website development.
The funds were raised from personal savings. Once I was confident enough that this was a venture I wanted to pursue, I started putting money aside from my monthly income.
- What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?
The challenges we face at Legally Engaged stem mostly from the fact that to the best of our knowledge, we are pioneers of this concept in Nigeria. As a result, there is no precedent or similar organization to turn to for an example of what to do or not do. We overcome challenges like these as we learn and unlearn, by exploring new frontiers and making our own mistakes.
Also, we find that we have to correct issues that should have been addressed much earlier in a young lawyer’s life. For example, we often get e-mails from users that are poorly written without regard to basic e-communication etiquette.
Because of our mission and the social impact Legally Engaged seeks to make, we try to take the time out to provide feedback to as many people as we can. However, dealing with the effects of an intrinsically poor educational system can become time-consuming and very daunting.
- Where do you see your business in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
In five years, I believe that Legally Engaged will be the law student and young lawyer’s Bible. I can glean from our already stellar trajectory that it will be the go to resource for careers information in Nigeria; no student will pursue a career without extensive consultation with Legally Engaged.
We also hope to venture into other areas to provide our users with a more holistic view of the legal profession in Nigeria. There is a dearth of publicly available information on key issues that should affect a young professional’s choice of where to work.
Professionals in other jurisdictions considering taking up employment with Google for instance, can easily obtain information on how much they can expect to earn, employee satisfaction rates, promotion prospects, etc. and avoid a costly mistake where necessary. Such information is largely unavailable in Nigeria, but we hope to correct this. We want to create better lawyers, but also keep the employers accountable.
To achieve these two objectives we tour various Nigerian universities creating awareness about Legally Engaged and the [services] it provides and we are partnering with universities, law offices and other stakeholders in this regard.
- What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start a business or invest in Africa?
Start now! It is fine, and in fact proper, to spend time planning and counting the costs. However, stop over thinking; be honest with yourself and recognise when ‘planning’ has become procrastination, especially when that procrastination is fueled by fear.
Do it in spite of the fear. Before Legally Engaged was launched, I was slightly apprehensive because again, it was something that was yet to be done in Nigeria and I was unsure of the reception it would receive. Now that it is up and running, it is clear that I in fact underestimated the need for a platform like Legally Engaged.
- How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
Using technology, Legally Engaged is providing lawyers who aspire to practice law in Nigeria (and to a larger extent, in countries that have strong economic ties to Nigeria) with the kind of information that is already available to lawyers in other parts of the world. We believe knowledge is power so we empower this group of emerging lawyers with information that will place them on equal footing with their foreign colleagues and allow them to compete globally.
Legally Engaged is also creating better lawyers and professionals in general, by ensuring that people identify their passion early enough, and deploy the appropriate tools to make something impactful of that passion. This will enhance the pool of lawyers available in Nigeria and help young lawyers achieve their career goals with fewer delays.