ICYMI: The Fellowship #MentorSession with Mr. Dapo Akinosun, Managing Partner of Simmons Cooper Partners.
In the cool evening of Friday 18th, May 2018, The Fellowship Abuja, an hosted Mr. Dapo Akinosun, the Managing Partner of Simmons Cooper Partners for its #MentorSession.
In case you missed it, we’ve got you covered. Here are excerpts from the unforgettable #MentorSession.
Tell us about your background and what inspired you to study Law, considering that you also have a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Obafemi Awolowo University?
I grew up in a middle class family, the third child of 6 children. Back then in primary School, I didn’t like Mathematics. At that time you needed to pass Mathematics or English Language, happily, I concentrated more on English Language and chose to study Law.
During the Senior School Certificate Mock Examination, I had 6 F9s, 1 P8, 1 C6 and 1A2 out of the nine subjects I took for the Exams. By these results I was written off, everyone had the believe it was impossible for me to study Law. My Father, however did not share their view, he believed one can do anything they chose to do. He inspired me greatly and told me I can make it if I decide to. He asked me to write these words on the wall of my room and read them every morning and evening: “I CAN MAKE IT AND I WILL MAKE IT”. I took the Senior School Certificate Examination and had 7As, 1C in Biology and Absent in Mathematics. To me it was better to be absent in the mathematics exam than fail.
I got into the University immediately after Secondary School to study Arts and Religious Studies. I only had the option of switching to Law in year two. I was the best in my Department in year one and was qualified to move to Law. Unfortunately, although Law Faculty accepted me, but my Department will not let me go being their best student. I was told I could switch over to Law in third year, but figured that will not be wise since I just had one year left to get this degree and then will apply for Law later.
By the time I concluded the degree programme, there was policy that stipulated that one had to undergo the Compulsory NYSC scheme before gaining admission for a second degree. I then got a job as a Secondary School teacher in F.S.S. Suleja, Niger State, I started making money and I kept Law on hold. One of those days in Suleja, I picked up a newspaper and a brand new Peugeot 505 car was advertised for 50,000 Naira, I figured I would have to save every kobo of my 4,300 Naira per annum income for 10 years if I want to get this car. That was when it dawned on me that this was not my job, I decided to go back to study Law.
I made a request for a transfer to Lagos so I could pursue the Law degree in University of Lagos (Unilag.). I was posted to Queens College Lagos and further transferred to Kings College but I had to resign after the Principal reported to the School Board that I was pursuing another degree.
Shortly after I resumed my Law studies in September, my father who had been ill after a car accident died in December. I had to bear the financial responsibility for my schooling on my own by doing business while in school as the family was more concerned about my younger brother who just got admitted into the University. More so, I already had a degree.
When you started your professional journey, what were the first five years like? Did you have it all figured out? Looking back, is this where you thought you will be today?
After law school I did not know what area of law to venture into, but I needed money and I needed to settle down. I got a job in the Law firm where I did my attachment (externship) during law school, the firm of Prof. L. I. Jegede. I was been paid 1000 Naira monthly. I was on my way to handle a probate matter outside of Lagos when I was involved in a Car accident with the office Car. When I got back Prof. Jegede decided to take responsibility and to pay for what I lost in accident by adding N500 Naira to my salary, thus making my cumulative salary N1500 monthly. But this was still not enough to meet my financial need as I needed to get married.
I went for job interview in a new mortgage bank and I got a job there as the Assistant Company Secretary. With a salary of N36,000 Naira p.a, exactly double of my salary per annum at my former employment. A year after, I got another job as the Company Secretary in a new Mortgage bank opened by one of my clients, where I got a higher pay, a driver and a Volkswagen car. I called my wife, whom I had been dating for over five years and told her it was time to get married.
You left your thriving personal practice in Dapo Akinosun & Co. to join SimmonsCooper Partners, what advice do you have for young people on how to blend the need for strategic partnership and their quest to leave personal legacies?
I started my law firm after the Mortgage Bank I was working with went down. There was no bank willing to hire me because of the position I held in my former job and I did not get a job in any law firm. Starting my law firm was tough as I did not have much experience in legal practice, but I succeeded. I went from zero Lawyers to employ nine Lawyers. My resolve to form a partnership was strengthened when I read a book “Who Moved My Cheese” which taught me the power of strategic partnerships. People thought I was insane when I made the decision. In fact, eight out of the nine Layers in my firm resigned.
One of my mentors, told me I had grown to the maximum level a one man firm could reach and the task of supervising many lawyers alone will take a toll on me. He advised that me to get a partner. He suggested I call one of my friends who was based in America. It was not easy deciding to give up my law firm of 10 years, but it was worth it.
With your earlier firm when you were a sole proprietor, there was ease of decision making, how have you handled the dynamics introduced by partnership, what should young CEO’s and entrepreneurs consider before partnering with others?
You need patience, endurance, tolerance and accept the reality that you are not the only decision maker in this deal.
Will you recommend working somewhere for a while or starting on your own straight up for young people?
At least for the first two years after your qualification, you should work with or under someone. It is easier to make mistake while under supervision, than making it on your own, thus having to learn the hard way. Strive to be exceptional in your office and be willing to learn every day.
What are your biggest career lessons? Is there anything you wished you could have done differently? Any unforgettable experience?
Do not touch your client’s money. Never give it to someone or use it yourself.
I remember sometime in practice, I wanted to help a friend who had serious financial challenge. I lent him some money from my client’s money in my custody as my client was away from the country for medical treatment for a while and we were uncertain about the time of his return to Nigeria. My friend was to use this money to start a business and pay back promptly. Unfortunately, he had huge loss in the business and was unable to repay.
Also learn to say NO when you need to.
How would you advise someone in a dilemma of either accepting a job she does not really like with a fat paycheck or a suitable job she loves but with low pay?
When you do what you do not enjoy doing, you will just endure it and will not derive any satisfaction, but when you follow your passion and do what you love doing, it may not pay immediately but it will, eventually.
Thoughts on low salary package for young professionals?
Do not bother yourself about what your employer or any one earns, care about whether your employer pays you what he has agreed to pay you. Concentrate on where you are going, the goal you have set for yourself and prepare yourself for it, you will surely reap what you sow and attain what you desire.