This post will be looking at money and life after Call to Bar.
Now the law school hype is almost over, its time to look at the next thing on the agenda. MONEY.
Once Call to Bar comes on the 25th of November, the next thing on people’s mind is to make money. That was the first thing on my mind sha. Yesss, get out of law school and make some money asap. Actual Reality: Error.
As a newly qualifed lawyer, the pay in Nigeria is actually PANTS. I arrived at this conclusion with a combination of the following; my personal observations from court attachment; people who had been in practice for a while and a very in depth twitter discussion from people a few years at the bar and currently in practice.
It’s a shock because it’s easy to fall under the general assumption of “there’s money in Nigeria o..” . This tends to cloud judgement of the real picture. Yes there is money, but before you get it, it’ll take a while. You can’t compare the salary of a SAN to a senior associate – There’s no comparison. Truly, the salary for lawyers in Nigeria is like the grading system at the Nigerian Law School : grossly unfair.
During my court attachment I was posted to one firm in Abuja. The principal was a nice man – had been at the bar for at least 30 years. His chambers was located in a large ‘plaza’ ( gosh, they have sooo many of these things in Nigeria. Literally 4 shops together and they become plaza.com, but anyway….)which had about 15-20 shops/offices on one side and the same on the other. There were at least 8 law firms there and that was only one street. In that one small vicinity, im sure there would be up to 15 chambers.
For me, I think there are two main reason why the pay is so bad. One: There are so many one man firms in Nigeria.
Me, Myself, I & Co
Barristers and Solicitors
Room 101, Iyana Ipaja, Lagos
I am not against setting up your own firm, but seriously, there are tooo many firms. In the plaza I described above, some were even next door to each other sef. When you now go to these firms seeking work, many will glady take you on. Ask about the salary – some pay as little as 25k monthly – roughly £100. Now tell me, after managing to finish your LLB, going through the stress of NLS, and believe me, that is one stressful institution, someone will now come and pay you 25k? Kai.
The firm I was attached to had 5 lawyers there, including the principal. The highest salary for the most senior lawyer was 35k. Now before judging, one ought to look at the bigger picture. When you have 4 lawyers working under you, including a secretary, it is not that easy to maintain consistent salary for all – even when the work is not that constant. So on the one hand, I can understand why the salary is pants. There’s just too much choice. And Nigerian’s, we like to bargain.
Ok 25k is small agreeable. Thats the worst case scenario I guess. Although I personally know of people earning that. The average good sized firm will pay at least 50K which is like £200. But really, what?! You know me, I like to do a cost sheet evaluation so bear with me whilst I table the basic cost of education below for both Foreign students (as they called us bar 1 folk) and Home students (students who studied in Nigerian universities)
Foreign student: Home and Int’l
£9,000 /£12,000 per year for the LLB
Home student: Nigeria
Private university : N400,000 – 2 million approx £2,000 – £8,000 per year
Other Universities : varies but anything from N50,000 – N250,000
Approx £ 200 – £1,000 per year
Nigerian Law School:
Bar One costs N250,000 – Foreign £1,000
Bar Two costs N 285,000 – Everyone £1,200
(Maybe/maybe not post graduate studies. We haven’t included this o.)
Plus Wig and Gown money – the price varies depending on where you purchased it
Plus practice fee – one during call to bar and again in January or so
So, regardless of which category you fall into, you have invested heavily in your education only for someone to be offering you 50k per month, with no real benefits. I can’t deal. I admit, in coming to Nigeria for law school, I think I was a bit naive as to how much lawyers were paid. I will admit it. I reckon I got sucked into The Good Wife and Suits too much…But really, Dianne Lockhart, Alicia Florrick and Jessica Pearson – they make me wanna kick legal butt. Their suits are just so…elegant! I dress up like that to Church and they always have something to say.(… Dressing up for Sunday service and the constant eyeballing from other babes is definitely a topic for another post….)Anyway, I really see why people say that practice is not for them. The salary is not exactly attractive.
“Magic Circle” firms are a little bit better but I think this is really reflected when you reach the top and upgrade from “Associate” to “Senior Associate” (SA) and so forth. Once you cross that barrier and get onto SA or they make you head of a department, ehn ehn. Then you can start making some money and doing your CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission) runs on the side. I think Magic Circle firms sell the name, its not really about the money for them. Everyone wants to be associated with a good firm. We’ll be careful not to name any names cos after that LIB issue, I don’t have any money someone can come and sue me for o.
1. Why do people accept this poor salary?
Well, do you have something else for them to do? Whilst observing many lawyers during court attachment and hearing some stories from my friends during this period, I concluded that many lawyers didn’t feel like they had a choice. Yes, you have invested much into your education – effort, time and money so somehow somehow, you have to recoup. I can’t really blame the lawyers who are collecting 50k per month – I don’t know their situation. In most cases, it is better for them to have something coming in rather than nothing at all. Those who can reject that salary most likely have something else coming in or are just waiting for something better. I can’t fault them on that because I don’t think even I’m prepared to accept that.
2. Should I accept this poor salary?
That’s really a personal thing as it depends on so many factors.
If there’s not much else coming in at the moment, I think most people would be inclined to work for 50k a month, “pending the time” something else comes in. As I said it depends on your situation. Let me tell you a little story. I once watched this Nollywood movie where this girl went to be a housemaid for a rich family. She was well read but no proper job was forthcoming. Her father had died and her mother was sick. When this housemaid job opportunity turned up, she didn’t consider her education and think it was a job she couldn’t do. Instead, she swallowed her pride and went for it. Her “madam” as they like to be called, used to beat all the helps senseless when they did something wrong or not the way she wanted. Anyway, she had taken as much as she could and called her mother to say she was coming home. Before she could start her sentence however, the mum was thanking her for the small money she sent as she was able to buy medication and was feeling a bit better. The daughter couldn’t bring herself to tell her what she was going through and decided to stick there a bit longer. Cut a long story short, she eventually met someone along the way who helped her into a much better job and the rest is history.
Now, that’s a typical Nollywood script, but it happens in real life. Honestly, it’s not that much different from working for a poor lawyers salary. As I said earlier, accepting a salary like 50k is a personal thing. Depends on individual circumstances amongst other things.
Reason Two for poor salary in Nigeria:
There are SOOOOOOOO MANY LAWYERS.
Lets take this 2013/2014 set for example. Out of 6,000 students* only 2000 passed. That’s what, roughly a third of the students who passed. Now take that 2000 students and join it with the 3000+ students** from my set. That means law school has produced roughly 5000 students in the last two years. How many jobs are available o? Seriously? A person who has his own firm cannot necessarily afford to pay you 100,000 naira ( like £400) a month which would suffice as a good starting point. There’s so much to consider for a start up – the over head runnings. How many to have lawyers? How many associates/senior associates? Office space? There is no set minimum wage so how will their salaries vary? Secretary costs? Opening a law firm seems to be a small thing in the eyes of many, but it all adds up eventually.
Most if not all of the top law firms are situated in Lagos, particularly, Lagos Island -many having branches in the capital – Abuja. However, when you have 2000/5000 students and only a handful of good magic circle firms, there’s no way we wont have a pay issue for lawyers and as a result many one man firms.
Soooo for those straight out of law school.
Advice: Be very prepared for what is out there and shine your eyes verrrry well. Enjoy your Call to Bar and enjoy donning your Wig and Gown. Take plenty pictures, instagram them and ensure you take Studio ones with correct makeovers. Ensure your parents are in their most expensive Iro and Buba/ Agbada and take frameable pictures for your home lounge. Once you have got over that phase, start thinking carefully about your future plans. If you jobbed your parents during law school ( excessive book lists and “extra tuition costs”. I am SO GUILTY of that LOL 🙈)then ensure that money is on standby. The world of work is not smiling! Most people will be doing NYSC and practice during this period. Get ready o…I hear Camp is just lovely..NOT!!
Anyway, use your time wisely – decide if practice is for you during your NYSC year or if you’re best suited to something else. Don’t fall under the assumption that attending law school means your life story ends with practice. There’s nothing wrong with diverting – the pay isn’t exactly screaming eat me lol. If you find something else which tickles your fancy please, go for it. And if you have decided masters is the next thing, come to Brunel!
* According to a source, see last post for more information
** Newspapers reported the highest failure rate in law school history. We don’t know if this year has superseded this number sha.