Oghogho Makinde, Partner, Aluko & Oyebode
How long have you been working for your current company?
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I attended the University of Benin and was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in 1989. I obtained an LL.M from the University of Lagos in 1999. I joined the firm of Aluko & Oyebode in 2000 and was admitted into the partnership in 2003. I am a member of the Nigerian Bar Association and the International Bar Association. I have always worked as a law firm lawyer; I worked in two small-sized firms over a period of 11 years before l joined Aluko & Oyebode. I had an extensive litigation practice before I joined the firm but now my focus is Energy and Natural Resources, Corporate Law, Banking and Finance, and Regulatory Compliance.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
There have been several highlights and headline transactions, but what I consider to be the proudest is that I joined one of the largest law firms in the country from a very small practice and I have been able to hold my own and become an invaluable member of the firm rather quickly. That and being able to cope as a partner in a very busy law firm as well as a parent and a wife are what I am most proud of. The plan was to ensure none of the balls I juggle drop and so far, none have.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
I love everything about being a busy lawyer. I love my work and try to take challenges in my stride. One recurring challenge though is uncommitted associates with no passion for the profession
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
Achieving this is a challenge; it has been a balancing act and sometimes I do not get it right. As much as possible my children come first but at times that just is not possible and my family makes concessions for me. What has been invaluable is a husband who understands my passion for my work and is willing to accommodate my career goals
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
I did not have a mentor when l was studying law. I have always been self-motivated and always wanted to study law. In the course of my career, I have had lady lawyers I admired from afar without having a mentor relationship. In my current position, I have enjoyed the counsel of older partners in law firms again on an informal basis.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I am not sure that these initiatives are practical or very effective. It is difficult to say what methods will be effective, and it is difficult to legislate these things into existence. Women will just have to continue to fight these battles one instance at a time. Over time, attitudes have changed significantly even in a conservative culture like ours.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
I think professional ladies in Nigeria have been very fortunate. In the legal sector, I am not aware of any ingrained discrimination against female lawyers. I certainly have not experienced that in my career. On the contrary there have been instances when being a female has certainly helped.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
The Nigerian legal industry has always been very accepting of female lawyers – there is a long history of female lawyers who have attained the highest honours available; there have also been female lawyers who established firms of their own. I have not encountered any obvious discrimination against female lawyers. On the whole, I can see there are more choices, improved work conditions, and acceptance as equal parties. The legal sector in Nigeria is growing rapidly and I can see more female partners.