By Geraldine Akutu
Ivie Omoregie is beauty and brain put together. In her world there is no impossibility. She is a key associate in the Energy & Project Practice Groups. She graduated with a second -class upper division with special focus on Contract Law from Bedfordshire University and did some courses at the University College London. Prior to joining Templars Solicitors & Barristers, she had garnered considerable professional experience working with Obaseki Solicitors, UK, Akintola Williams Deloitte, and most recently Babalakin & Co, Lagos. Omoregie is a commercial lawyer, with experience and keen interest in projects and transactional work within the Sub Saharan African region. In this interview with GERALDINE AKUTU she talked about her career and other issues.
What was your childhood dream?
When I was a kid, I nursed the ambition of being a medical doctor at first, but as I advanced in age, I thought of going into philosophy and later law, which is what I am doing today. I am glad that dream came to fruition.
You lived all your life in the UK, at what point did you decide to come and settle in Nigeria?
I moved back to Nigeria in 2010 because I found myself so boxed-in in the family Immigration Communal Law in the UK and knew that that I didn’t want that. Once you start in that area, you just have to stick to it. I spoke with my aunt and she advised me about the opportunities in Nigeria. At the time, Lehman Brothers crashed and there were serious problems because getting a job was difficult. Even some companies had to lay off their employees. People who had more experience than I am were ready to take a job that I would take at an entry level. Nigeria was never part of the plan because my parents and siblings are all in the UK. I didn’t really want to live in Nigeria because the power sector is not encouraging and the hustle and bustle of Lagos is tough. You know, Lagos is one of the intriguing cities in the world. Though my parents were worried but I assured them that all is well because I am no longer a kid. So, they allowed things be and today they are happy.
What was your experience like when you came back to Nigeria?
Well, I would say it was an interesting and adventurous one. I learnt a lot of things. When I came into the country, I worked with Delloite. While working there, my partner in the office advised me to go to Nigerian law school because she believes it will give me leverage and boost my certificate. I took her advice. So, after working there for a year, I went to law school.
Did you see any difference between the Nigerian law school and the one you attended in the UK?
To a large extent, I observed that in Nigeria before you can be at par with other lawyers, you have to do an entry level irrespective of your years of experience. You just have to start with bar 1 before bar 2. In the UK, it is not so. If you are a Nigerian citizen coming into the UK, it is easy for you because you will just do a six months convergence course as long as you have the relevant experience.
Can you share your childhood experience?
Well, it was an interesting one and full of fun. My parents took good care of my siblings and I. They taught us to believe in ourselves and strive to be the best. We are five in the family (I am the second daughter and the second child). We go for holidays and I had fond memories of my parents bringing us to Nigeria.
How did you join Templars Solicitors & Barristers?
After my law school, I worked with Babalakin & Co owned by Wale Babalakin. I worked there for more than a year before I joined Templars where I am working in the Energy and Finance department as a solicitor. In England, barristers and solicitors do different roles but here it is not like that. While working with Babalakin & Co, I was going to court and I didn’t really like that because I was trained in the UK as a solicitor not a barrister. I’ve always loved the job of a solicitor. Since, I joined Templars Solicitors & Barristers, I have not gone to court for two years now and I am enjoying my job. It has shown me a lot of angle to Nigerian law. We do a lot of arbitration work here, do cross border transactions and work with the best firms in the world.
Do you have any regret coming to practice in Nigeria?
No regrets at all. Nigeria is a beautiful place. I think there is so much misconception about Nigeria. Nigeria is portrayed in a terrible way and that is so unfortunate. In this country, I realized that people make legitimate money, buy cars, houses and still have fun but in the UK, you have to take a loan to buy a car or house. I showed my siblings the other side of Lagos when I invited them over. Here people are genuinely happy with the little they have. Sometimes, you see people, hear what they earn and be amazed that they are smiling. Nigerians are naturally happy people. If you are determined, you can make the system work for you .
What is your take on Nigerian female lawyers, are they proving their mettle?
I think the legal system worldwide is male-dominated and not peculiar to Nigeria. We have some highly influential lawyers that are breaking records and on top of their game. It is not easy for a woman to dominate and still be able to manage her home effectively because the reality on ground is you have to spend long days working. In some law firms, they don’t care about the welfare of the associate especially if it is male dominated but the female tend to be more compassionate even though she doesn’t have a family of her own. There is this discrimination on the female gender. In my firm, we have a lot of women and the men are considerate. We work together as a team. I think the women in the law profession in Nigeria are doing very well and for you as a woman, you have to prove your worth. Women are capable, diligent and as brilliant as the men.
Aside practicing as a lawyer, what do you do?
I write for Bella Naija because of my love for writing. I am a creative thinker. It is something I hope to continue doing.
Describe your style of dressing?
I like to dress well and look chic all the time. I try to look as neat as much as I can because first impression matters. In my profession, dressing in a provocative way is not allowed. I try to dress decently. I don’t wear short skirts to the office or skirts above the knee. Knee length skirts or midi skirts does it for me. I do tell ladies in my office that you don’t have to dress sexy or in a provocative way to look stylish. So, I try to look as classy and stylish as possible.
What is the best advice you have ever received from your parents?
My mum encouraged me to be confident in myself and my father made me know that hard work pays. They have been supportive in my career and shaped me into becoming what I am today.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I want to be a partner in a very large international law firm. I really do enjoy my job. This job is not a nine-to-five job but a job that you do with dedication and passion. Aside that, I would love to start an NGO and liaise with the Federal government where we will try to give aids where necessary. It is painful when I see someone going through trials in court. Some people have spent so many years in prison, nobody is speaking for them. I want to be a voice for such people. I would also like to be involved in some capacity in Nigerian politics. I want to do something that will be revolutionary in my field.
Advice for upcoming lawyers
Time management is very important to meet up with deadlines and work efficiently. They should be hard working to be the best to stand out because law in Nigeria is highly saturated. They should be patient, dedicated, disciplined and persistent. Don’t give up, keep pushing and you will get there. It might seem tough at the beginning, but hold on and believe that things would get better. Also be prayerful.
Cc The Guardian