Uwede-Meshack Okezi, 27, who is a junior counsel at General Electric, speaks about the intricacies of his job
What stirred your interest in Law?
At the time we were to choose a discipline in secondary school, I wanted to beat the stereotype that my knowledge and excellence in mathematics automatically made me a science student. I went to the art class and I was informed that Law was one of the courses for the smartest people. I also loved the fact that lawyers have awesome mastery of language and that made me want to become a lawyer. The elegance of the law student and difference among peers in university was also an inspiration. Today, I am totally grateful I did, because I enjoy what I do so much.
How do you intend to consolidate on your understanding of legal principles with finance and business development?
Interestingly, this has become the top burner on my table. I think society stands on two pillars: economics and law. How these two pillars interact determines a lot about societal policies and culture. For me, learning about the two worlds and finding rhythm, balance and interaction are what I strive for daily. I believe that all legislation and policies have a “money effect.” In my work, I constantly find how important it is to develop business acumen, apply legal principles and see what great results I can get. Continuous learning, determination and continued collaboration with mentors and colleagues are good strategies that have helped me so far in being effective.
Why did you opt to work as a legal counsel at a firm as against practising as a lawyer?
I practised in a full-time litigation law firm for one year and I interned for several months in different firms during my undergraduate days. I grasped some knowledge of how it works in a law firm in that period, although not at a high level. The option to work in-house chose me, as I gave it a shot and I was given an offer. I have always wanted to become a teacher of the law, and I am particularly interested in commercial law subject matters. With the rare opportunity of working in a global company on very important and high ticket projects, with access to awesome mentors too, I believe I am having the right exposure quite early in my career. I would say the learning process is the network, exposure and experience which are totally worth my while.
What does success mean to you?
Success to me means excelling on set goals; it is quite personal but has a public outlook to it. I can be successful by my standard, but it is good success when it is objectively acknowledged by persons within your sphere of influence. I also believe that success is all encompassing; so, I strive to maintain a well-rounded life and sell my brand correctly to attract the right presumptions.
Who are your role models and how have they influenced you?
Two of them were my lecturers at Babcock University. Professor Koyinsola Ajayi (SAN) inspired me in the mastery of English language, class and style of a lawyer, as well as the hunger for knowledge of the law. The other is Professor Bankole Sodipo, who is currently one of Nigeria’s authorities in intellectual property law. I encountered him for the first time in my third year and he did not only influence my decision to want to teach law, but also the need to be hard-working and acknowledge God in all my dealings.
What attitude do you think that youths should have towards work?
I think that we should be gritty, diligent, deliberate and smart-working. As entrepreneurs, we must be patient and consistent at every task we have to accomplish and make sure we don’t stop until we succeed. The statistics of start-ups with short life spans continue to increase by the day. For me, that is a representation of how much we give up on things we do and how we do not take time to build solid structures. We should be deliberate about wanting to build viable institutions that would outlive our generation, adding good value to lives and staying responsible to our environment and community. As employees of companies, we must be result-oriented, work smartly and seek ways to be more cost effective. Everyone loves to work with someone who gets things done, who’s curious, who cares about what the company cares about and who is pleasurable to have on a team. Youths should develop competence at work and have character traits such as integrity and ingenuity.
If you were not a lawyer, what would you be doing?
If I’m not a lawyer, I would be a professional writer. I love to write in my free time.
Do you have other accomplishments?
I graduated with a first class some years ago, and I won several awards as an orator.I am also a chartered administrator and secretary. I am currently working on a book that I think should be my next accomplishment.
What advice do you have for youths who want to succeed in their various careers?
Stay curious and don’t be stale; rather you should always be updated. Know something about everything and everything about something. Develop competence in your field and work deeply on your character. Have a robust network of mentors, sponsors, colleagues and friends. Be socially relevant as much as you have career goals. The pursuit of happiness is totally necessary; so, you must ask yourself deep question on whether what you do makes you happy. Above all, ensure that you love what you do and the people you do it for. This makes all the difference.
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