Joke Aliu: For the love of the law

Joke is an accomplished lawyer with one of the nations  leading law firms.  Let’s talk about this lady’s love for the law. 
Tell us about yourself (family,  profile, education  etc)
I was born into a family of 5 children and I found myself right in the middle. I have a feel of what it is to have both older and younger siblings. I have an older sister and brother and I also have a younger sister and brother.I studied law at Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan and I went to Law School in Lagos. I got a masters degree in law from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. I also spent a session at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and obtained a Certificate in Law & Business. Perhaps one of my best career decisions was choosing to work in my present place of work. 
I am married and I have three lovely children IreifeOluwa, EriifeOluwa and EniifeOluwa. Don’t worry, I mix up their names as well.
Why law
I don’t know o lol! of course I do! I think my desire to study law started when I was in secondary school. Like many others, I saw pursing a career in law as a way of getting involved in social justice. Of course, I later discovered that law entails much more than that, but that was my first drive. 
Apart from the above, I also made my career choice partly through the process of elimination. Elimination is a good way of making decisions. I knew very clearly what I didn’t want, and that helped me narrow down my options. For instance, I knew I didn’t want to study medicine. I didn’t like the sight of blood or the smell of hospitals..loll. They smell a lot better now. I also wasn’t really interested in the sciences, partly because of the way science subjects were taught back then. The subjects seemed too ‘abstract’ for me. I learn better when I am able to imagine or see things in my mind’s eye. When you refer to a chemical that I have never seen or a mixture that I have never come across, it becomes a bit difficult for me to relate with the subject.I wasn’t afraid of numbers so I considered the social sciences. I considered accounting and spent a semester at Yaba College of Technology, but my stay there only confirmed to me that I should pursue a career in law.  I just found  law very appealing. 
Was there anything  in your childhood that pointed to your future as a lawyer?
I don’t think there was anything that pointed to law in my early childhood. I was born in Ibadan and Yoruba was my first language. That doesn’t look like law, does it? My early childhood ambition was to be a traffic warden (hahahahahahahahah!) For just two reasons, I liked their uniform and thought they looked very smart. I was also totally thrilled by the fact that cars stopped and moved at their command. That was very early, perhaps when I was between the ages of  6 and 9. My older brother was much more ambitious, he wanted to be a medical doctor but thought it’d be impossible to achieve that ambition because he wasn’t fat enough. My family physicians then were on the big side so he thought that being fat was a pre-requisite for being a doctor. If anything at all pointed to law at that time, then it was the fact that I liked to ask questions. However, that could have simply meant  that I was an inquisitive child. Given the difference between my early ambition and where I am now, I think parents should be patient with their children. I am with my 12year old daughter who currently says she wants to be a dancer!
A lot of lawyers (like me) run from litigation and core practice yet that’s where you find yourself.  Tell us about it? 
I think many lawyers are more capable than they think. The beauty of law is its diversity. As a lawyer, you can function in so many areas. I however advise that as much as possible, lawyers should get involved in core practice even if it is only for a few years after Law School. If you thrive in core legal practice, the odds are that you will thrive in most other things. That is not to say that you will not thrive in other things if core legal practice is not your thing. 
To me, litigation is that aspect of law that gives you a taste of several things at the same time. First, it’s an opportunity to combine both procedural law, substantive law and advocacy. For instance, if you need to represent a client in a maritime dispute, then you need to learn about that area of law and the business itself to properly defend your client. Litigation therefore presents a very good opportunity to broaden your knowledge of substantive law. Experience as a litigator also sharpens your analytical skills and helps you to speculate /envisage different scenarios and provide for them, so that your client is properly protected. If we look at what we stand to gain in terms of skills and experience, it’ll make it easier to embrace core practice.
I know that a major disincentive for litigation is the unpredictability and delay in our judicial system. There is no mincing words that those two things are real. Hopefully, with the current focus on the ease of doing business, there will be some improvements. 
I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to combine both litigation and corporate practice.
Tell us one issue you had as a new wig and  how you overcame it.
I remember my first day in court. It was at the Lagos High Court in Igbosere. For the first time, I realised the weight of the wig and gown. It must have been the tension because I didn’t feel that way in the wig and gown during the call to bar ceremony. 
Unlike many others who were led by senior colleagues on their first day in court, I had to appear alone on my first day.
I was sweating as if I had just run a sprint! I had a bit of anxiety despite having been well tutored  for the proceedings by some of my senior colleagues at work. When my case was called, I announced my appearance but said my name in reverse order…it must have been the anxiety. The judge very quickly corrected me. 
I soon got over the anxiety, but only by keeping at it. Many times we stop trying for the fear of failure. Most times, fear won’t just go away. We may need to do those things afraid, that’s when the fear goes.  Everyone in the court room is human just like you and not one person can boast of never making a mistake. 
Tell us about your new book!
The book is titled ” 40 lessons on our journeys to 40″ and in it we share some of the lessons we’ve learned on relationships, career, faith etc. I have a brilliant co-author, Funke Medun, and we share 20 lessons each. Coincidentally, we both turned 40 in January so thought it would be a good way to mark our milestone.
Sharing the information in this book was a challenge, as I am quite private but I am happy I did.  I also  hope someone picks a few lessons from it.
Thanks Joke and all the best!

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  1. Nice interview! Joke is such a great role model to a lot of us younger ones in the profession, and it helps to know that if she can do it… we can too!

    Looking forward to the book..

  2. Oh wow, Joke has written a book! Kudos to her. She was so highly admired by all when I was at A&O and she has achieved so much. Great interview! ??

  3. Great! Joke Aliu (nee Oyinsan) and I were very good friends in the Law School. Is she in the Abuja office of Aluko & Oyebode or the Lagos office? She’s such a wonderful lady.

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