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More than Just a Lawyer

Take a realistic view of the profession

Monday, 08 February 2016
Norton Rose Fulbright
Take a realistic view of the profession

"Brian Shonubi talks about his experiences in the legal profession."

Being considered “classic” is a status that everyone is currently chasing and you are probably not immune to the euphoria. The term is relatable to both genders but you will be aware that it has been made famous by the American artist Jidenna, in his global chart topping single “Classic Man”. While the term refers to one carrying themselves in a dignified manner, as a law student the thought of trading in your Chuck Taylors for formal shoes and heels may still be quite daunting. Enter “Shonubi……Brian Shonubi”. When senior associate in the Norton Rose Fulbright Finance Africa team Brian Shonubi makes an entrance, it is not hard to hear Jidenna belting the chorus of his hit single in the back ground. This is because Brian is a young high flyer in the firm who has transitioned into the corporate world with ease. In this piece we explore how you too can make the leap to being the next modern day classic lawyers.

Brian Shonubi was born in Uganda and qualified as an advocate in the United Kingdom. His English qualification means that he runs a cross boarder practice as English law is a well-accepted choice of law around most of the world. Brian believes that Africa is where it’s all happening and in spite being one of the younger senior associates in the firm, he works at the helm of some of the biggest project finance transactions that are taking place on the continent. He says Africa is primed for development…for aspiring African candidates looking to make a name for themselves, there are opportunities around every corner. One thing that stands out when Brian speaks is that his attire is not the reason why he was able to make the fabled leap from student to professional. Here are some of the keys he gave to aid you in tapping into the market and building flourishing practices in the years to come in South Africa and around the globe.

The first thing he says - all aspiring candidates need to know is that the practice of law is in fact a service. An early riser himself, Brian starts the day at 5:30 a:m and is already mentally preparing for the meetings and drafting required by his clients. Understanding that his work is a commodity clients’ require for their transactions to reach the finish line, has been key to his success in the legal profession. This has entailed some long hours but it’s not all you have to look forward to in your journey to becoming a professional.

“Don’t be afraid to strike the balance” Brian remarked, to our shock, considering some of the hours he has worked on his bigger transactions. Finding a way to still be a person outside of the office is crucial, he says, to hitting the ground running as a young professional. Some sayings always remain true and Brian agrees that you need to both work and play hard to be the best in a high paced environment. Brian makes sure that he steps out for lunch with his friends (or woes as you would say) and ensures that when possible, he fills his down time with hobbies such as Basketball.

“Take a realistic view of the profession” he chuckled while making reference to the legal TV series’ Suits has certainly glamorised what it’s like to work as a lawyer. The dress code alone will not make you a successful lawyer. In the end you simply need to have the right attitude and everything else follows on from that. When you start as a first year candidate attorney, you are not required to know everything and there is no way that you can. We all go through it and it is the attitude of wanting to learn and not letting mistakes slow down your momentum that will help you from the law lawns to being successful in a law firm.

In closing Brian said, you need to keep in mind that law firms are looking at you as much as you are looking at them. Social media is a game changer which many candidates can be reckless with without considering the implications it has on their personal brand and job opportunities. When you search for a firm in which to complete your articles, one should look for the fanciest building or highest salary. It “has lot to do with your own personality and what type of environment will suit you best’. Looking at the firm at face value can be detrimental,” he warns, “the greatest misery can be found in the best buildings.” In Norton Rose Fulbright however, he has found great passion and purpose and co incidentally, in what just happens to be “a very nice building?”.

Cape Town Durban Johannesburg More than just a lawyer

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