I’m calling piece ‘A Nigerian lawyer in the UK’, well because…that’s exactly what I am.lol. I graduated from the University of Lagos Nigeria, went to the Nigerian Law School, and got called to the Nigerian Bar. I worked in a top commercial law firm in Nigeria, and then decided to come to the UK for a Master’s degree.
To know more about me and the course i’m studying, you can read this article.
I’m studying for a Master’s Degree in Computer and Communications law at Queen Mary, University of London. One of my previous blogs has an analysis
of my course of study, so you can find out more about my courses there .
I think that there are lots of ways you can get the most out of a UK LLM program outside the four walls of your classroom, and you can find below some of the few ways you can leverage on your time in the UK to make the best moves career wise.
Qualify as a UK Lawyer
The UK, like most if not all other countries of the world, have their own set criteria for people interested in practicing law within the country. The fact that Nigeria is a commonwealth nation makes it a bit easier for Nigerian trained lawyers to get licensed to practice law in the UK. The main difference between the UK and Nigerian legal systems is the fact that in the UK, the roles of the barrister and the solicitor are separated, while in Nigeria, they are fused. So, if you have completed your LLM degree in the UK, and you meet the work requirements, then the first step for any Nigerian lawyer wishing to practice here is to decide on which career path is more suited for you. To find out the criteria for being eligible as a barrister, check out this website, and to find out the steps to follow to be a licensed solicitor in the UK, you can visit this website.
Internships are great way to get foreign work experience, and learn more about the country’s legal system and how law firms operate here. Internships in law firms are particularly difficult to come by, and you would have to do a lot of searching and looking around, but if you were to get an internship, it would be a fantastic plus to your CV, and so when you go back to Nigeria you would be able to bring an added dimension to your professional personality, and hopefully that would make you more attractive to employers. The first step in your search would be to check out the websites of the top law firms, and apply directly through their HR departments. You can find out more information about applying for internships in general in this article.
Another thing you could do is use the opportunity here to write some professional examinations, and get qualifications that are recognised worldwide. Professional qualifications are good to emphasise your specialisation in a particular area of law, and they also help you get more exposure to some particular aspects of practicing law. Some professional qualifications that are worth looking into are ICSA and CIArb.
Short Certificate Courses
Some institutions specialise in providing short term courses which lead to the award of professional certificates, this is more niche than the professional qualifications and are more practical. Most times the courses are taught by practicing lawyers who deal in these issues on a day to day business. For example, one of my friends is doing an LLM in International Business Law (IBL), and after he’s done with the programme he wants to do a short course in Drafting International Loan Documentation…he’s gotten the overall general idea about IBL, but he’s particularly interested in the area of drafting the loan documentation, so he wants a more practical and focused study. Therefore if your area of specialisation is more niche than the regular areas of law (like my friend), it’s worth considering a certificate course.
Like all professions, lawyers rely heavily on networking, and being in the UK is no different. Nigerian lawyers need to embrace networking while in the UK. Try to make connections with lawyers from other jurisdictions who are also studying law in your school, meet up with them for drinks, watch movies together, hang out…who knows if the person is a Turkish lawyer, 3 years down the line he’s firm may have a legal issue in Nigeria, if that happens and you guys have kept in touch even after graduating, be rest assured that it’s your number he’ll call when he wants to get the legal issue sorted out. So make as many international contacts as possible…set a target for yourself, make friends with lawyers from at least 10 jurisdictions. I’m doing the same thing right now, i’ve made friends from about 15 countries now, and i have no plans of letting up.lol
Also, you should also try to link up with others Nigerian lawyers who have made the successful transition from studying in the UK to practicing in the UK. A good starting point would be this website.
So, there it is, if you are thinking of studying for an LLM in the UK, hope this blog has helped to give you some ideas on how you can make the most out of it.