How we can rebuild our institutions and legal framework in Nigeria – Bar.Owen Asaolu

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Let’s get to meet you, sir, tell us about your background?

Thank you for having me, it is my pleasure to grant this interview. My name is Owen Asaolu, a Lagos-based Legal Practitioner/ serial entrepreneur. 

I had my secondary school at Edo College Benin City. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Law (LL.B) from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. I am a Barrister & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

I started my working career with THE LAW CREST LLP as a Consultant. At THE LAW CREST LLP, I was task with the responsibility of managing high net worth corporate commercial and individual clients.

Under very experienced and versatile Principals, I was mentored and acquired considerable exposure and know-how in Construction & Real Estate, Tax Law, Labour & Employment Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Probate Law, Administration of Estate Law, Immigration & Nationality Law, Patents, Trademarks & Intellectual Property Law and searches/investigation respectively.

I am an innovative legal practitioner and a member of the following Associations

·         Nigerian Bar Association

·         Chartered Institute of Arbitration (UK)

·         International Facility Management Association (IFMA)

·         Association of Succession, Trusts and Estate Planning Practitioners.

I am highly skilled in crisis management/resolution, negotiations, and in dealing with international and local regulatory bodies. 

In addition, we are in partnership with Osisi Africa Ltd. a company with the sole desire to identify and support startup companies operating in Nigeria. I currently work at Crane and Clarks Legal as a Partner, where I am responsible for expanding the frontiers of the firm’s business. I am also a Director in Autumn Green Ltd, a Real Estate Company.I am married to Gatiri Dakwak-Asaolu, a legal practitioner and blessed with three daughters.

 How did the idea of becoming a legal practitioner come about? What was your key driving force to becoming an Attorney?

I had and still have the strong desire to add value to society and the best course I could think about was Law. Thus, adding significant value to society and making the world a better place through the instrumentality of law remains my key drive. 

What are the values that resonate with you as a professional and do they influence the kind of case/matters you handle?

 Integrity, loyalty, and strict adherence to the rules and principles guiding our profession. I can attest to the fact that 80% of our clients were gotten via referrals from friends and clients who we have worked for in the past and have reposed absolute confidence in us. Hence, the place of integrity, loyalty, professionalism, and ethics cannot be overemphasized in the legal profession. Our firm is also a very strong supporter of SMEs and we have provided support to thousands of them from our inception to date. We also provide Pro Bono services to indigent clients who are in genuine need of legal representation.

How would you describe the legal framework in a country like Nigeria with a democratic style of leadership? Are there areas you think we can do more as a nation?

Yes…Enforcement of our laws is our major problem, we have laws guiding every facet of our life, if our economy and democracy must stand the test of time, the rule of law must gain primacy over the rule of men.

In the midst of tense societal issues and the emergence of aggrieved parties, what do you think is the best way to mitigate and possibly manage our institutions?

I believe we should strengthen our institutions in terms of autonomy, ensure that Justice is served at all times without bias. We also need to fully adopt other dispute resolution methods that are in line with our culture as Nigerians.

How do you professionally handle a case, and which tactics have been most successful?

 The best approach has always been working within the confines of the rules of professional conduct and ensuring that clients are well guided within the dictates of the law, hence the place of continuous professional education.

As a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitration (UK), my first action is to try and resolve the matter amicably among the Parties through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) such as Arbitration. Should an amicable resolution fail, I will proceed to litigation.

My goal at all times is to ensure where possible that both parties come out satisfied. 

Can you describe/outline your typical day? How do you balance the demands of legal work and family life?

I work very hard and also play very hard, I commence work at my workplace from 7 am daily.  When I close from work I either go home to be with my lovely family or hang out with my friends in a corporate classy environment to discuss several issues of personal or national importance. Some of my friends call me EkoGbajumo due to my loyalty to them and love for the city of Lagos and Nigeria. 

I also love to cycle and I am also a member of the foremost cycling club in Nigeria…CYCOLOGY RIDING CLUB!!!

How do you define success? Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful Legal Professional?

Success to me is relative.  Being able to resolve client’s issues successfully and being able to use my position, goodwill, network, and profession to add life-transforming value to mankind is success to me.

I also consider success as being able to support my friends, associates, and colleagues when required. Being in a position to render support brings joy and fulfillment to me.

What has been the most satisfying moment in your profession? What piece of advice would you give to college graduates who want to become legal practitioners?

My most satisfying moment is when I receive positive feedback in respect of a completed brief from a satisfied Client.

Focus on your education and other things shall follow, never lose focus. Build relationships, be cheerful, polite, firm, and strategic towards being successful. 

What key activities would you recommend lawyers to invest their time in career and personal development?

Decide on the aspect of the law you want to specialize in and focus on that area. You cannot be a master of all. Attend courses and training in your area of specialty. 

As a Legal Practitioner, what are your suggestions for ease of approvals by Regulatory Government Agencies and your suggestions on how to accelerate the quick dispensation of justice in our courts?

I would use Regulatory Government Agencies such as the Lands Bureau, Lands Registry, and the Probate Registry as an example, they need to utilize information technology in order to work efficiently. The current manual ways of carrying out the application processes ought to be jettison. Time is money and I am certain government would earn more revenue if timelines are met and citizens would be satisfied and happy for it.

The CAC has significantly improved compared to most of the Regulatory Government Agencies particularly with the latest upgrade of the Commission’s website early this year which has made virtually all CAC application processes a lot easy.

Lastly for the courts, the unfortunate position, where matters are in court for a prolonged period of time and lack of adequate communication of adjourned date by the court to litigants and their lawyers, if this is resolved it would revive the confidence litigants have in our judicial system.

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