Young Business Lawyer: Women’s Month Edition

Full name: Faridah Saliu-Bello

Organisation: MTN Nigeria Communications

Practice Area(s): Corporate Commercial Law, Intellectual Property and Technology

Years of Experience: 6 years

Professional Summary
Faridah Saliu-Bello is a lawyer and currently works with the commercial legal department at MTN Nigeria Communications Plc. Prior to joining MTN, she was an associate at Banwo & Ighodalo, a consistently ranked tier 1 law firm in Lagos Nigeria. Her experience spans multiple practice areas, however, her areas of specialisation are corporate transactions, legal advisory, intellectual property, data privacy and technology law. Faridah is currently a member of the Emerging Issues Committee of the International Trademark Association (INTA) and a member of the editorial team of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch.

Faridah was part of the team that advised Ketron Investment Limited (a Nigerian company owned by a group of reputable Nigerian investors led by Persianas Investment Limited) in connection with the 100% acquisition of Retail Supermarkets Nigeria Limited, owner and operators of Shoprite (the largest supermarket chain in Africa) stores in Nigeria. She advised MTN Nigeria in relation to the acquisition of its technological infrastructure required to deploy the first-ever 5G network in Nigeria. She also represented MIC Royal at the Court of Appeal and obtained a landmark judgement in its favour, in a suit against the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria. The Court of Appeal in this case established the definition and scope of an advertising practitioner; and the ability of APCON to regulate persons who are not advertising practitioners, but nonetheless utilise social media platforms to advertise their goods and services.

Five Questions with Faridah

What have been some of the most rewarding moments in your legal career so far?

I have been privileged to work with some of the brightest minds in Africa, so as you may imagine I have had so many rewarding moments. However, my most rewarding moment was while I was an Associate in the law firm, and we volunteered to provide legal services to technology startups within a certain Innovation Hub. This exercise was fulfilling because we helped these organisations, who would not have otherwise had access to excellent legal services, by protecting them from future liabilities and exploitation from larger organisations. Witnessing some of those companies blossom now, gives me explainable joy.

Read also: “Women should have mentors” – Chinyere Okorocha

How do you see the legal profession evolving in the face of rapid technological changes, and what opportunities and challenges do you think this presents for young lawyers?

The legal profession has witnessed a lot of automation, and in the future, more processes will be automated. In terms of opportunities, in addition to making the practice of law relatively easier, it presents novel areas of law to carve a niche for oneself, that never existed (with very little competition too). On the flip side, there will be challenges because the fundamentals of legal practice never really change. Thus, you may struggle to accommodate existing legal principles, then you must apply them to new areas of law that were not in existence at the time those principles were formed.

In your opinion, what are some of the most important skills and qualities that young lawyers need to succeed in the technology industry today, and how can they cultivate these skills?

To succeed in the technology industry, you need to be analytical, adaptable, be an out-of-the-box thinker and you must be up to date with emerging technologies. The technology sector experiences change frequently, such that the knowledge that you possess this year, for example, may not be relevant or sufficient to provide solutions to your client in the subsequent years. One resource I consult frequently is the World Intellectual Property (WIPO) website, because they regularly churn out articles on frontier technologies. In summary, you cannot excel without reading and doing so very often.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2023 with the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, how do you see the role of technology in promoting gender equality in the legal profession?

Every technological development presents an opportunity to build upon the existing way of doing certain things. The introduction of new technology to the legal profession would mean that everyone would have access to the same kind of resources required to thrive in the profession. Essentially, this means that you no longer need to belong to the “men’s club” or possess certain physical characteristics to have access to information or tools that are required to excel in the profession. This is one of the many ways that technology will promote gender equality in the legal profession.

What message would you like to share with other young female lawyers around the world, especially in this Women’s month?

I have so many things I would like to share but my primary advice for young female lawyers is – do not let anyone drown your voice. Your opinion counts and you deserve to be heard no matter the circumstance. It is very easy for women to feel intimidated especially in the workplace, where sometimes only the loudest voice is heard. Therefore, please be confident enough and believe that you can add value to the organization because you are just as knowledgeable and sometimes more knowledgeable than the men in the room.