9 Nigerian Female Lawyers Talk About Practising Law In Nigeria

June 9, 2021

This week is one of those times where we, as a country, wonder if the constitution is simply a suggestion. Many lawyers have complained of studying and practising law in a lawless state. Like with most issues, women’s experiences take a unique form. In this article, nine Nigerian female lawyers talk about practising law in Nigeria. 

Nigerian female lawyers

Jumoke

I have had clients who refuse to pay me what they would pay my male colleagues because of misogyny. This has happened to me three times over the past year. There was this client my aunt introduced me to. We were discussing one of his properties when he asked me to send him nudes. I was like from where to where? He was my biggest client at the time so I ignored him. After everything, he was to pay me 100k, and he kept posting me. He would say things like, “You are a woman, what are you using that amount of money for?” To date, he still hasn’t paid me. 

Another client asked for my number under the guise of helping him prepare a contract. Instead of listening to me, he would be telling me he wants to make me his second wife. When I asked him for his email address to send an invoice for the contract so he can pay a deposit and I can start working, he said he has a lawyer and he just wanted to help me. 

I am expected to handle all of this professionally. I can’t call them out because I am afraid of being professionally blacklisted. 

Yemi

When I was in law school, I  worked at a small law firm as part of the bar assessment. The lawyer who owned the firm was also a lecturer at my university, so he didn’t always come to the office. He said I and the other women from law school that worked there didn’t have to come to work all the time, which was fine with us, since we were preparing for bar exams. Sometimes, we would go because we had to fill our log sheet with activities. But the man always made us run errands every time we went to the office. It was extra annoying because there were two other male lawyers and a cleaner in the office as well. One day, we got to work and the office was dirty — the cleaner wasn’t around. The owner of the firm asked us, the female law students, to clean it, talking about how we will behave in our husband’s house. It was such a degrading experience. 

Adesuwa 

I wouldn’t describe it as a smooth experience. Most law firms are inherently misogynistic in their policies and practices. 

Female lawyers are often passed over for high profile cases outside jurisdiction because they are supposedly meant to be catering to their homes and wouldn’t have time for such cases.

There is also a sexual harassment problem in law firms — I have heard of instances where senior partners harass female junior associates. There is a certain way a female lawyer is supposed to look and it changes depending on the setting. In courts you can’t be too pretty or flashy, else there’s an assumption that you don’t know what you’re doing. At the office, you have to wear makeup and high heels to be taken seriously. I hate all of it.

Ego 

I used to work in a law firm where I experienced a lot of benevolent sexism. I had a supervisor who used to infantilize women. He would say, “ Why would a woman be carrying her case file when I’m there?” or “Why would I send a woman to a case out of town when there are men there?” and so on. There are a lot of gender roles within the profession. Most people believe that men are better at litigation than women. I saw that while my peers and I were paid the same amount as the men, our superiors also expected the women to take up roles like party planning or sharing food. I also noticed that the bias becomes more visible as you climb the ladder. When I was being interviewed for the job, they asked me if I had a boyfriend and when I planned on getting married. They wanted to know how long I could work for them before, according to them, marriage and kids get in the way. 

Clients also have a bias against us. They accord my male colleagues more respect than they do me because I am a woman. It’s baffling. When I say something, they argue with me but when my male colleague says the same thing they immediately agree. I’ve had a client call me “Babe” multiple times and comment on my looks in front of my male supervisor. They laughed about it. My voice is tiny and my physique is small. People tend to use my voice and appearance to try to discredit what I say or try to bully me and stuff. I’ve learned to hold my ground but I wish I didn’t have to. 

Pelumi 

First and foremost, practising law in Nigeria is hard. After all that stress from university and law school, we are offered peanuts as salary. As a practising female lawyer, I have to work harder than my male counterparts because there is an assumption that female lawyers are not good enough. Male colleagues are more likely to be promoted than female lawyers. 

There is also the case of being addressed as gentlemen at the bar. It doesn’t look like anyone is questioning and I don’t understand why. I have also heard people say female lawyers don’t make good wives. I don’t even understand the rationale behind this. 

Ife 

I washed my hands off practising litigation from the beginning — I am more of a corporate lawyer. It is a fun and rewarding experience but Lagos traffic ruins everything. My house is quite far from the firm I work at, so I spend an average of four hours in traffic every day. This kills the vibe for me. 

Titi 

There was a time I had a case outside our jurisdiction, which I was looking forward to. But my boss told me to stay back at the Chambers because I am a woman. 

He said I couldn’t cope with the stress. What happened to me gaining experience on how proceedings are done outside my state? 

Then there’s the dress code. I can’t dye my hair because I’m a lawyer. I can’t make bum length braids because I’m a lawyer. So many things I’d like to do but can’t because I am always in court and I don’t want the judge to embarrass me. 

Korede 

It’s tough being a young female lawyer in Nigeria. On some days, it’s the absolute ghetto. On other days, it’s okay. People think I don’t know as much as my male counterparts. There is this shock on some clients’ faces when they realize they will be attended to by a female lawyer. There are the clients that make passes at you during the first meeting. It’s all very annoying. 

Blessing

I worked in one of the biggest law firms in Nigeria and I faced emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse while working there. I thought the owner of the firm was a father figure, so it took a while for me to see his behaviour for what it was. Sometimes, he would walk up to me to say that he wanted someone to lay on his back — someone with my body stature. Other times, he would remove the pendant of my necklace from in between my breasts and say, “As a lady, your necklace should sit on your breasts.” He had a habit of dusting off invisible dirt on my clothes. He would send me errands in front of clients and insult me even when everything goes right just to belittle me in front of everyone. I was the only female lawyer in the office so I was alone dealing with this. 

Subscribe here.

Mariam Sule

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

Watch

Now on Zikoko

August 5, 2021

When it comes to games night ideas you can play with friends, it is best to consider the people you’ll be inviting so you can choose games that each person will enjoy. Not every time truth or dare, or never have I ever. Here are 8 game night ideas you can play with your friends. […]

August 5, 2021

You need to pass a message with the hairstyle you wear on a first date. Just like your accessories, your hairstyle also speaks volumes. These hairstyle options are strictly for women who date men. 1. The Machine hairstyle I am not sure if it is a jet, or a bicycle or an aeroplane. The point […]

Recommended Quizzes

November 25, 2019

We already guessed how many people you’ve slept with, and y’all were out here denying the truth. Anyway, we won’t hold that against you. This time, however, we’ve created a quiz that predicts who you’ll sleep with next — so you can either prepare or try (unsuccessfully) to prevent it. So, take and see:

November 19, 2019

Regardless of what society has tried to tell us, enjoying sex is not something to be ashamed of. So, in a bid to celebrate our generation’s sexual agency, we’ve created a quiz that will accurately (again, keep your complaints to yourself) infer how many people you’ve spelt with. Try it out: 11 Quizzes For The […]

November 28, 2019

There are so many talented and stunning Nollywood actors that make it hard not to fall in love with them. So, while we all know the likelihood of us ending up with any of them is super low, it’s still fun to imagine a world where we actually stood a chance, and that’s why this […]

November 15, 2019

There are two types of people in Nigeria right now: those who are proud Marlians, and those who are still in denial about stanning the divisive star. So, for those who proudly wear the Marlian tag, we made a quiz to test how well you really know Naira Marley. If you get more than 6 […]

January 2, 2020

Do you have even a single romantic bone in your body? Well, if you’re not sure about just how sweet and thoughtful you can be to someone you love, that’s what this quiz is here to answer. 11 Quizzes For Nigerians Who Are Ready To Marry  Are you ready to marry? Take these quizzes.

More from Her

August 5, 2021

You need to pass a message with the hairstyle you wear on a first date. Just like your accessories, your hairstyle also speaks volumes. These hairstyle options are strictly for women who date men. 1. The Machine hairstyle I am not sure if it is a jet, or a bicycle or an aeroplane. The point […]

August 4, 2021

In this week’s What She Said, Aramide Kayode is a 21-year-old economist and teacher. She talks to us about switching to education after a 21-day prayer and fasting revelation, going to Harvard and getting married at the age of 21.  What’s your earliest memory of your childhood? I’ve always been talkative. I remember when I […]

July 31, 2021

Angel, one of the resident Gen-Z’s in the ongoing Big Brother Nigeria has shown us that beyond being self-aware, she is also very funny. Here are a few times Angel has shown us that she is one of the top 5 funny women in Nigeria. 1. She being a generous and accomodating side chick. 2. […]

sad girl covering her eyes
July 29, 2021

As told to Mariam  In a group chat conversation about Nigerian parents, Tega said her parents were toxic. When I asked how, here’s what she told me:  Trigger warning: Physical abuse  I’m the first of three girls. My father was distant when I was younger. He was rarely around except when there was a problem […]

July 28, 2021

The subject of today’s What She Said is a 24-year-old woman who has a very rocky relationship with her stepmum. She talks about how she misses her mum, the ill-treatment she got at the hands of her stepmum, and the medical condition that messes up her self confidence. What’s your earliest childhood memory? It’s driving […]

two women with curly hair
July 27, 2021

If you found out your younger sex was having sex, how would you react? We spoke to three Nigerian women about how they found out that their younger sisters were sexually active and how they reacted. Here’s what they had to say:  IB, 24 One day, we were gisting and she said,  “You know I’m […]

diagram of the female reproductive system
July 25, 2021

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is still largely unspoken about across Nigeria. Many people may have heard about it but a lot of them don’t know what’s true or false about the condition. Here are five myths and facts about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Every woman with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome grows hair in unlikely places.  Though a […]

black woman in the gym
July 25, 2021

I spoke to four Nigerian women about what visiting the gym as a woman is like. Here’s what they had to say: Bibi, 22 I always have a pleasant experience at the gym but there was this day, my friends and I were on the mat and the instructor was helping us stretch our bodies. It […]

July 23, 2021

Romantic relationships bring different changes to our lives. Some welcome, some not. In this article, five Nigerian women talk about how their partners changed their lives.  Bisola, 23 I grew up in a conservative space but I always knew I wanted to explore certain things and with the help of my current partner, I am […]

black girl using her phone
July 22, 2021

There is a growing number of dating apps available to Nigerians living in Nigeria. In this article, three Nigerian women talk about using dating apps.  Dami, 27 I downloaded Bumble a few months ago. This is my first time using a dating app. I chose Bumble because my friend told me that the app is […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X