..Lawyers Pay & Future Plans

Hey guys,

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.)

Other Expenses:
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!

Ciao.

Xx
image

* 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.

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “..Lawyers Pay & Future Plans

  1. Thank you for this. The information is useful. I studied oil and gas law for masters and would like to work for an oil and gas company or as part of a firm that focuses on that aspect of law. Do you have any advice or information that can help? Thank you.

    1. Hi naijabrit88. Lol, I wish I knew your name but hi all the same-:)

      Thank you for your comment – glad you found the post useful. My reply is a bit long though. Sorry in advance.

      It depends really on if you want to practice (litigation) or if you want to go down the solicitor route. I’ve listed two website below – hope you find it useful.

      http://m.chambersandpartners.com/161/24/editorial/2/1

      http://www.hg.org/lawfirms/nigeria/lagos.html#

      If you’re looking to go into practice, it might be worth looking at the above firms. In particular, (1)Templars and (2) Odujinrin & Adefulu and (3) Paul Usoro SAN & Co. They seem to have a very good reputation in oil and gas. The funny thing however is I’m honestly not sure how relevant LLM really is in Nigeria. Sure, everyone has one these days but I don’t believe its something you can work with in everyday practice. What they teach you on the course is very theoretical based. My LLM for example is in International Economic and Trade Law – i know for a fact I cant use any of the stuff I learnt in a court room. (You have given me an idea for a mew post lol. )

      If your looking at industry or maybe company secretary roles, then perhaps Shell and Chevron. A friend of mine also has an LLM in oil and gas ( I think Dundee) and she applied to Shell. Apparently the process was a bit long but in Nigeria, this is understandable. So, if you’re interested, its a good idea to start researching around that.

      http://ngcareers.com/category/legal-jobs

      http://advisoryng.com/our-expertise/oil-gas/

      Also, if you’re on Linkedin, start connecting with people in your field. When you get into practice, although there are alot of lawyers in Nigeria, you actually find that the legal practice circle is very small. 

      Hope it’s been of help.

      Fola

  2. Soft post. Makes me wonder why I am in a hurry to get back to Nigeria. I worked for 2 years after law school and just completed a masters degree.

    Until now I have seriously been considering coming back to Nigeria. Now, you have reminded me of what I already know. Can’t be earning 100k sef after spending $80, 000. Makes no sense.

    For me I think I will look at other areas. This law thing is hard everywhere sha but our own na die

    1. LOL. I agree. It doesn’t make sense as you have put it, to have spent so much on education, only to return, to such a small portion and have it called a “salary.” However, that’s Nigeria for you unfortunately.

  3. Hi Abeeb. Thanks for your comments.

    The best place to check would probably be legal 500 or, Chambers and Partners. These websites have a detailed guide as to the best lawyers in different areas of law.

  4. I think it is important to get as much experience as you can. That will help for several reasons. First, it will help you decide if this is really the career path for you. Secondly, it will help you realise what you actually have to do ( in terms of effort..) to get to that high paying jobs.

    All the best!

  5. Hi, it’s me again. It was a boob not posting anonymously, I’m starting to feel very uncomfortable with my name being in the open. Can you edit out my name, or delete my comments? Pls.

  6. Your article is true for many lawyers but not for all. The pay is generally poor, especially in Abuja because there is not as much work in comparison to Lagos. I must point out that what firm and salary one ends up in is entirely one’s choice.

    I made a choice that I would not work in any firm that paid me poorly even as a youth corper and once I positioned myself in a good firm, there was no going back. I will use myself as an example. As a youth corper I was earning 60k (I stayed because I really liked the firm) and I was mad about that, although the work experience was great, because there were about 5 firms paying corpers 100k and about 5 others paying 70-80k. Although these amounts are not so great, they are relatively okay.

    When I finished NYSC, I decided that I could not work for a firm that would pay me anything less that 150k even though I was barely one year at the bar and I got just what I wanted. By the end of second year, I was on 200k. At the end of my third year, I will be gunning for at least 270k. Again, all these amounts are not great but are relatively good. So I believe what you aim for is what you will get, it is about determination. The market is open and it is only those who are determined to come out on top that will do so. Use your negotiation powers, there are even people newly called to the bar that are started on over 300k because of their experience prior to coming to Nigerian law school. I have to use a pseudo name of course, I think it is not necessary for everyone to identify me in relation to this post. Keep up the good work!

  7. I really appreciate this post. Why? it takes into account the fact that it is not everyone that will be a top lawyer, in fact, less than 25% graduate lawyers would probably be top of their job. It’s crazy at times when I think about it that a service cleaner or McDonalds attendant here in the UK can earn between £700 – £1,500 a month and back home in Nigeria, you are looking up to a good job of N120,000 for a start which is let’s even say about £350, which from your analysis would even be rare to find considering the number of lawyers. I recall one of my Canadian friends saying an ‘average’ graduate lawyer in Canada earns about $950(canadian dollars) per week as at 2014 and of course here in the UK, its about £2,000 a month for the lowest paid lawyer. Yet, a Nigerian student has spent roughly the same amount as his Canadian counterpart to bag the same degree. In my own case, I just wonder if its worth it considering that I already bagged a first degree in Nigeria before coming over to study law. Of course, it’s about distinguishing yourself from others but how many vacancies are actually out there for the so called ‘distinguished’. Now, in about the time you are rising to an associate or senior lawyer (maybe between 5 – 10yrs, not sure), you are just preparing to earn what your non-Nigerian colleagues were earning During their first year. IT IS RIDICULOUS!

    If it weren’t that it is so difficult to get accomodated in the UK legal system, considering that an average law firm is more likely to employ a British white, then a British black b4 even considering a non-British black, in all honesty, it is not worth coming back to Nigeria to practise law if you studied abroad. That is the gospel truth. IF YOU STUDIED OR ARE STUDYING LAW ABROAD and you are not sure of what to do AND YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A CHANCE AT GETTING A JOB THERE, THAT IS YOUR BEST SHOT, no 2 ways about it.

    By my calculation, if you spent about £50,000 on ur studies in the UK and you get an average salary of N200,000 per month in Nigeria, it means you will not even recover your cost of studying abroad within your first 8yrs of practice, which does not even cover cost of living within the 8yrs nor any profit afterwards. We need a complete overhauling of the whole employment system. THE STATUS QUO IS SO DISCOURAGING I MUST SAY.

  8. Hmmmʍʍ,,I aʋ ʀɛaʟʟʏ ʟɛaʀռt a ʟօt,,aʍ stɨʟʟ a stʊɖɛռt tɦօʊɢɦ ɮʊt Tɦɨs ɦas օքɛռɛɖ ʍʏ ɛʏɛs tօ ɖɨʄʄɛʀɛռt tɦɨռɢs,,,,Tɦaռҡ ʏօʊ օռċɛ aɢaɨռ

  9. Thank you! This post has been very helpful and an eye opener! I am currently living in the UK and have been here all my life, but I have been really considering moving back to Nigeria recently – with my boyfriend being there and the competition in the legal sector in the UK. Having studied and worked here, I’ve had concerns about what life may be like in living in Nigeria and the prospects for those who have studied law. The salaries in Nigeria seem very unfair, but then I must also consider the fact there the standard of life is different and things are generally cheaper.
    One must also consider the tax in the UK, which is deducted before you even see your pay slip. So there are downsides to all options.
    The personal opinion point is very true, as in my case I am currently being paid ‘unfairly'(in terms of the UK) , in a job which is not really related to my degree, earning about £1,500 each month but I believe I would be happier earning less doing something I’m passionate about and that I actually studied for.

    I have heard stories about people being paid in dollars in some firms in Nigeria? Would you happen to know anything about this?

    1. Hi!
      Thanks for reading the blog – I hope you enjoyed it!

      My apologies for the delay in repsonding. I have heard that some firms pay in dollars, but given the current economic climate, I am not sure if this is still the case.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s