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Meet 23-year-old Iyinoluwa Ajayi, who earned a first-class degree in law from the University of Ibadan’s Department of Law with a 6.30/7.00 CGPA and repeated the feat at the Nigerian Law School. She tells TUNDE AJAJA about her school days and what made her stand out.
Do you consider yourself to be working in your dream job?
I had no intention of studying law. I’ve always aspired to be a doctor. Wearing white overalls, being called a doctor, and wearing a stethoscope around my neck appealed to me. I noticed that I did better in Art-related areas later on, notably in secondary school, and I wanted to pursue it.
Most people who went to Art classes at the time chose to study law, so I followed the crowd (laughs). Fortunately, I discovered my calling in the midst of the mob, and my parents encouraged me. I’m fortunate to have wonderful parents and siblings who have always supported me.
Aside from my immediate family, I have incredible male and female friends who have shared my law school journey with me. They prayed for me, provided food, supported me, and prayed.
Did you establish a goal to graduate with a first-class degree when you were accepted?
That’s exactly what I did. From the beginning of my freshman year, I kept a binder in which I recorded all of my courses as well as my intended grades.
In fact, I calculated my CGPA without ever sitting for an exam. Setting this goal was quite beneficial to me since I would periodically go to it to review my objectives, and it motivated me to study more diligently.
Did that help you get a first-class grade?
My response is somewhere in the middle of easy and challenging. Yes, it took a lot of effort, but it wasn’t difficult. I had the excellent fortune of being taught by dedicated professors who rewarded hard work with high grades.
As a result, all I had to do was show up to class, complete my assignments, pay attention during lectures, study diligently, and pray. This approach served me well during my time at the Nigerian Law School.
Students use a variety of reading schedules; which one worked best for you?
Law is dense, but I found a study method that worked for me early on and stuck to it throughout the five years I spent at university and law school. I used to scribble notes in class and make my own doodles in textbooks and other materials.
Because I didn’t like having a backlog of unread notes, I reviewed these personal notes over and over until I completely understood everything about the classes. That preparation instilled in me enough confidence to take my tests.
Also, because I couldn’t study at night, I made good use of my daylight. I didn’t read just because everyone else was; I did what I thought was best for me at the time, and with God’s guidance, it paid off. So I just discovered a routine that worked for me and followed it religiously.
Is it anything you’d describe as a pleasant journey?
At both the University of Ibadan and law school, there were occasions when I was on the verge of giving up. I was heavily interested in extracurricular activities during my third and fourth years at university.
I was the president of a few of student organizations and was also active in church. With everything going on, I didn’t have nearly as much time to study as I did in my first and second years.
I felt overwhelmed at times and considered giving up my pursuit of a first-class degree, but my close family and friends reminded me of how much they believed in me, which helped. Part of what helped was that I made daily goals for myself, which included all of the topics I intended to cover in a given day, and I wouldn’t go to bed unless I met those goals.
Regardless, I made sure I got enough sleep every night, especially while I was in law school. In fact, I was in bed most nights between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. I only read during the day and limited the amount of time I spent on non-essential activities.
When was the last time you went to the library?
I used the library for research several times during my stay at university. I never went to the library during law school. I had no idea where the library was until we had to take a practice exam there.
I don’t like reading in particularly calm settings since I’m prone to falling asleep (laughs). I prefer to read in my room or at my table, where I can be distracted and remain alert.
Were you active in any other school activities or was it solely focused on your academic work?
I participated in a variety of extracurricular activities during my time at university. In my final year, I was president of my Faculty Press Organization; I was vice president of the Students’ Council on Legal Aids; I was a founding member of the university’s Tax Club.
I was a member of both my faculty and hall of residence’s Literary and Debating Society; I was a member of the Junior Chamber International; I worked on the Students’ Union’s Electoral Committee in my fourth year and headed the electoral committee of my hall of residence in my final year.
Apart from religious commitments, these were only a handful of the activities I was involved in at university. However, aside from religious activities, there were few extracurricular activities available in law school.
Was there ever a time when your parents praised you for a job well done?
My parents were probably used to it because I had always been a high-achieving student (laughs). During the holidays, I used to get extra meat and special treatment, but nothing too extravagant.
I didn’t ask for anything, but if I had, I’m sure I would have received it. However, the fact that they were pleased with my work was sufficient compensation for me.
What are the key problems you see about law practice today that you think should be changed in terms of professional ethics and skills?
The legal profession is a noble one, and being admitted to the Nigerian Bar is a privilege. However, as with any other profession, there are aspects of our work that may be improved. The first is what I refer to as “adjournment culture.”
It deters new lawyers from entering the field of litigation. While parties to a disagreement can request and receive adjournments, they should not be utilized as a delay strategy to increase the time spent hearing a case.
The salary of new lawyers is the second point to consider. While it is true that working in legal firms allows new lawyers to gain experience, they should not be underpaid. The labor that the ‘New Wigs’ do in these law offices deserves to be compensated fairly.
What advise would you provide to kids who want to achieve the same high levels of success as you?
Read, pray, rest, teach others, learn from others. Academic excellence does not belong to a select group of people. You will be rewarded if you can put in the effort.
What were your most memorable school experiences?
When I obtained my transcript for the previous academic session and realized that my performance had either improved or remained the same, that was one of my pleasant moments in school.
It was preferable to dropping. It felt great to know that my studies didn’t suffer as a result of my numerous commitments. Other great memories include hearing people comment how inspired they were by how I handled my academic work despite my multiple extracurricular interests, and most importantly, how I excelled in all of them.
My most humiliating experience at university was receiving a ‘C’ in a computer course in my second year. I taught the course prior to the exam, and when the results were revealed, my performance was startling. That’s an experience I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.
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