What Is The #NairaLife Of A Nigerian Lawyer? We Asked One

May 11, 2020

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.

When you think about money, what is the oldest memory that comes to your mind now?

It was 2000. I went to a boarding house for the first time with money. I was to hand it over to my guardian in school while I kept the extra money my dad gave me. 

So boarding house was the first time you had your own money?

Yes, that was the first time I felt like I had my own money. Before then, any money we were given was collected by my mum. 

See that first pocket money? It didn’t last. Also, I used to suspect my guardian wasn’t doing the calculations well because I was sure I didn’t collect all that money from her before she said I had exhausted it. 

Hahaha. But you couldn’t say, “excuse me ma, it’s like you don’t know maths.”

Ha! She was an old woman o, and I was scared of being flogged. 

What was secondary school like?

Kids lied about their big houses and all, which we later found out to be lies, hahaha. Thinking about it now, I think they were just trying to be cool. But there was a senior that always had all kinds of provisions in 2 or 3 sets and I used to wonder how. Then we found out ah, she was a rich kid. I can’t forget.

So, what significant ‘financial’ event happened throughout the rest of secondary school?

My Dad died when I was in SS1, so it had been just my mum taking care of my sister and I. By the time I entered University in 2007, I understood better not to disturb my mum for money for frivolous things, except for the basics – not that she ever complained.

I felt I could support her, and that’s why I paid my school fees with the bursary fees I got back from the government.

Let’s just say I was more serious with money in Uni and I knew how to prioritise my needs and wants. 

Bursary?

In my Uni – a state university – after passing the Lagos state bursary interview, you’re qualified to get back your school fees and that was what happened.

But in 200 level, I got to know about the scholarship bursary for students within the 1st class and 2-1 G.P.A range. You get like ₦200k every year if you maintain that GP. I did the exam and passed, and every year, I got that money till I left school. I paid my school fees from it and gave my mum a part of it too. The first bursary I got in 100 level was ₦25k as that was my school fees at the time.

How did people qualify for bursary?

You just had to show your letters and document that you are an indigene, and then you do an oral interview about your hometown

How much was your school fees though?

I remember 100 level was ₦35k for the main school fees, while acceptance fee was 10k. I paid ₦25k every year until I graduated. 

And after uni?

Law School. Hmm, Law School fees was a problem but God came through.

Tell me about that. 

Law School fees and expenses was a lot. Mum tried her best but it was just a bad time for her. We managed to raise ₦182,500, and the balance of ₦100k cam just when the time for submission of applications was almost closed. My school Muslim Students Association paid the balance.

Amazing.

Yeah. Also, it was a one-time payment, so I eventually finished Law School in 2013. Started serving two months after. I was getting paid ₦35k at the Law Firm where I was serving, plus NYSC’s ₦19,800. I was spending only on transport fare, food and clothes, so It wasn’t that bad. My salary later got increased to ₦50k. 

I got retained after NYSC. 

Ah, nice. 

My salary increased to ₦85k. I worked there for 4 years and some months. Changed jobs in 2018 and currently, I’m at my second job. 

What was the salary culture like?

There was no proper increase, it is a one-man business, so the structure wasn’t great. Although we got 13th month at the end of the year and got paid a ‘bonus’ sometimes. I remember the highest bonus I got was ₦200k when the partner became a SAN. 

Interesting. Is it usually like this in law firms? This lack of structure?

Law Firms are pathetic. But there are a few good ones. My friends work in some of those and they don’t complain. There are Law firms that don’t pay tax or remit pensions, yet we go to court to defend people on those issues. E be things. 

E be wigs and things. 

And the ones that claim they pay, don’t remit on time. While I understand that they might be trying to cut the costs of running the business, it’s wrong not to remit on time.

How much did you start with at the current place?

₦210k gross, but ₦178k net. To be honest, I didn’t bargain properly because of the sweet things I heard about the firm – they turned out to be false – and the talk of constant profit sharing and bonuses. 

What did you hear about the company and what was the reality?

That they have a very good structure – pensions, tax, promotion and salary structure and bonuses not less than a million, hahaha. 

How did these things stack against reality?

I didn’t get a bonus until after a year, not a problem. The first I’ve gotten is ₦500k, and I’m hoping to get another one soon. Hopefully, Miss Rona allows it. Pensions and tax are not being remitted at the right time. To be honest, I don’t think any tax has been remitted for me and deductions are made from my salary every month. It feels like cheating. 

But most importantly, I think the real mistake I made was that the salary doesn’t match the work. 

How much do you feel like you should be earning?

Between ₦450 or ₦500k net, with benefits. I’m 8 years at the bar now – if I’m counting all the practising fees I paid, although some people might say it’s 7 years. Still, I deserve at least that salary. 

How much were you paying when you started?

For the first four years post-call-to-bar, you pay ₦5k. For year 5 till 19, ₦10k. I hear SANs pay ₦50k.

Do you have friends earning this amount?

Yes, more.

Interesting, can you walk me through a breakdown of how you believe your salary should have grown over the past 8 years?

  • The first year: at least ₦100k
  • The second to third year: at least ₦200k
  • By the fourth year: between ₦250-₦300k
  • In the fifth year: between ₦300k and ₦350k
  • In the sixth year: ₦400K and above depending on your bargaining power

I believe most lawyers do a lot more work than what they earn. And in all honesty, some firms have a good pay structure, there aren’t just a lot of them.

Let’s break down how you spend your monthly income. What goes to what?

How long does it look like you’re going to practise law for?

Hahaha, to be honest, I don’t know. Right now, I’m really looking forward to doing other things, God help me. 

What are you interested in?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Law, I really do. Maybe I’m just having a “mid-career crisis”. But I’m also interested in HR, and I’m gaining interest in UI and UX writing. I’ve been reading so much about it, but all the information online is overwhelming, so I feel like I need a friend in that line that I can always bombard with questions. 

This is very fascinating. Let’s start with the HR part. When did you realise?

I’ve always liked HR. I considered taking up a full career as a practice manager – that’s legal HR – in my 2nd year of practice. But then, I was still young at the bar and wanted to feel the thrill of practice.  

What’s the last thing you paid for that required serious planning

Trying to do this japa thing, so the monies spent for IELTs and application fee required serious planning. 

So far this year:

IELTs = 75k ×2

Application fee (including biometrics) = 308k

Medicals costs 35k

Interesting. How is Miss Rona affecting the japa movement?

Well, I submitted all the docs before the pandemic blew out of hand and I’m just waiting for the passport request, so my application is still within the time limit to get that. I’m hopeful and fervently praying that covid won’t delay that for me and everything comes out successful. 

When was the last time you felt really broke?

Are you joking? I’m always broke jor. But really, when I made that application fee in February this year, I was broke-broke. Like, nothing in my account. Thank God for my mother and my sister. 

What’s something you want right now but can’t afford?

House. I want to stop paying rent. I currently pay ₦500k in rent. 

What’s something you really wish you could be better at?

Side hustle and halal Investments. I want to know more about halal investing, I’ve really had no problem with saving, but I suck at investing. I’m always too scared to take risks. Knowing the appropriate investments one can venture into and generally knowing how the number works.

I don’t want to make an investment and lose my money. 

What about financial regret, do you have any of those?

In 2014, I entered one investment plan with which was to last for two years – saving 20k a month. But because I didn’t want that kind of interest, I didn’t get anything back from it, just collected my money back like that for 2 years. 

If I knew about halal investments better, I believe I should have made a profit out of that money but I’ve learnt my lesson.

You said you invest in a bunch of things every month. What are they?

More of savings than investment, still not good at investing. ₦50k goes to savings, ₦20k for investment. I’m in this investment group and I drop ₦20k every month for that investment 

I really hope to do more soon.

What’s something you bought recently that significantly improved the quality of your life?

A car. I got it in 2019. I had access to a car in my former place of work so when I left, no more car. It wasn’t easy going to courts, work meetings without the car and it used to make me think so much. One day after struggling for Danfo in the morning and getting to work late again – ₦1k is deducted from my salary when I’m late – I made up my mind that I would get a car and God made it possible. 

Although it was with the help of people; my mother, my sister, and my ex. I poured all my savings, and in two months, I was able to get it. It cost ₦1.8 million. 

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your happiness levels, and why?

7. Alhamdulillah. But it’d be really nice to be able afford everything and anything one wants without thinking too much.

A last question; how does a lawyer stumble on UX writing?

Hahaha, the desire to do something else apart from Law. I’ve been reading about getting a side hustle, and a lot of Naira Life stories about software people getting paid in dollars. Then I learned I don’t really have to know how to code to do it. So win-win!

ENERGY. Do you have any questions for me? 

Do you have anybody that can teach me more about UI/UX writing?

Well, I think I might know someone. 

Thank you!

Check back every Monday at 9 am (WAT) for a peek into the Naira Life of everyday people.
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Every story in this series can be found here.

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