• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
businessday logo


Young Business Lawyer: Women’s Month Edition – Inna Ali

Young Business Lawyer: Women’s Month Edition – Inna Ali

Full name: Inna Fatimeh Ali
Organisation: Templars
Area of Practice: Energy and Natural Resources; Corporate Commercial
Years of Experience: 8 years

Professional Summary
Inna is a Senior Associate in the Corporate, Commercial and Energy & Natural Resources practice groups. She also heads the Abuja office at Templars. She has key experience advising a wide range of clients on diverse transactions covering complex regulatory compliance and due diligence, corporate advisory and ESG indices, power sector, concessions, telecommunications, energy and focus on energy transition as well as other infrastructure projects. She is versed in legislative oversight aimed at keeping clients up-to-date of upcoming laws, as well as strategic relationship management with regulators and industry stakeholders across various practice groups.

Inna is an active member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), namely the Women’s Forum where she served as Deputy Head, External Relations Committee 2019-2022. She is also a key member of various NBA committees over the years, namely, the annual general conference planning committees (TCCP) in 2016, 2018, and 2019 and the Joint Working Group of Office of the Speaker, House of Representatives and the NBA on committee review of the Electoral Bill, 2021. She also assisted in planning the 2019 and 2021 African International Conference on Islamic Finance.

Inna advised Sojitz Corporation, one of the leading conglomerate investment and trading houses listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, in connection with its acquisition of a 25% interest in the holding company of Axela, the largest private sector gas distributor in Nigeria. This transaction marked the beginning of a collaboration between the company and Helios in West African gas downstream businesses.

Five Questions with Inna Ali

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

There have been several rewarding moments in my young legal career. Notably, the buzz of seeing transactions I have worked on in one capacity or the other make positive headline news. This affirms the fact that effort put into these transactions, alongside the rest of the team, is shaping society, be it in infrastructure, telecoms, energy, investments or shift in legislation for the better.

Read also: Young Business Lawyer: Women’s Month Edition – Inyene Uko Robert

Outside of legal transactions but within the legal industry, a very rewarding moment was being the coordinator-general of sessions, and key planning committee member at the 2018 NBA Annual General Conference. The experience here allowed me to work very closely with great legal minds of the country at the committee level, as well as close interactions with the speakers who are seasoned experts and legal luminaries across the various multi-sector sessions we curated. The testament of hard work here with thousands of lawyers enjoying the conference after many hours of behind-the-scenes planning & content creation is very rewarding in addition to gaining management and leadership skills.

What challenges have you faced as a young female lawyer, and how have you overcome them? What advice do you have for other female lawyers?

So far and thank God, I have not faced as many challenges in my career. Primarily because my workplace is generally nurturing in style and not toxic. Outside of my desk, I did notice that I am judged more simply because of being a young female lawyer and sometimes, “imposter syndrome” may set in. That being said, and along with my obvious background, I found myself having to do more, go the extra mile or exert my knowledge to be taken more seriously. I overcame this by making myself useful and constantly staying on top of relevant recent law developments, and current affairs and expanding my base so as to fix issues in the shortest time possible. For this, my advice is we need more young female lawyers from all backgrounds who are multifaceted and well-versed to work in top-tier law firms or other practices dealing with visibly defining transactions. The work is intense yet satisfying and perseverance is crucial.

However, a major challenge to achieving the above would be managing our relationships (with ourselves, spouse, family and friends) and motherhood, for those like myself who chose this route alongside legal practice. Being a young mother of 4 that includes a set of twins all while in practice was not easy but I found it bearable. This was simply because of the emphatic and accommodating nature of senior management at work and the support system outside work. Not many will find it so at work so I am appealing for improved working conditions for women to thrive such as self-care workshops, longer maternity leave, and blended or remote working hours for new or single mothers and even women caretakers. A number of young women are delaying relationships and/or motherhood on account of fear they may lose ground or promotion at work. This does not have to be so.

What are some of the trends or changes you anticipate in the legal industry in the near future?

Some trends I anticipate in the legal industry will be in areas of the energy transition as the world is focused on tackling global climate change with increased attention on renewable and cleaner energy sources, extractive minerals (such as lithium for batteries, for example) and lesser focus on other fossil fuels. This will potentially shape the kind of transactions firms may encounter and thus capacity development in the different aspects of this area and ESG matrix is key for lawyers.

Additionally, the increased rise and usage of artificial intelligence (AI) such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and similarly others may likely give way to untested areas in the legal industry in terms of workflow, intellectual property and laws never before considered. Here, there may be further disruptors such as cyber and data security, legal process outsourcing and legal tech within the legal industry. I do not think lawyers will be made redundant anytime soon as even AI-generated work will need human input in order to feed off on, as well as the reason being lawyers possess strategic, emotional intelligence and creative thinking capabilities AI does not have. However, capacity development here in view of this incoming trend will be useful.

What one (female) leader do you look up to and why?

This is quite difficult to answer as I have a few female leaders I strongly admire for the different admirable traits that they possess. Apart from certain historical female figures, currently to name a few are Justice Fati L. Abubakar (rtd.); Templars Energy Partner Yemisi Awonuga; and Yabawa Wabi, mni (former Minister of State, Finance). To have to name one and at risk of it being a cliché choice is my indefatigable mother, Ammuna Lawan Ali, mni OON, former federal ‘super’ Permanent Secretary and one time OPEC Governor for Nigeria, to name a few roles- a woman who retired over a decade ago but her leadership testimony and integrity still transcends till date in corridors and boardrooms far and wide. I learnt the value of a strong work ethic from her and that fairness, diligence, integrity and a good name are priceless. These lessons are what I aspire to emulate in my chosen career.

Finally, in honour of International Women’s Day, how can technology be utilised in ensuring gender equality and equity in law firms?

To achieve gender equality and equity in law firms, we must, as is in also more advanced countries, allow the use of technology to allow fairness in the treatment of women (and men also), according to our own respective needs. As I mentioned above, allowing for blended work patterns and remote working opportunities by utilising technology (software, laptops and internet, etc) such as for meetings, court processes, reviews, research and many more. Making provision for telemedicine services at the workplace will also promote this and will go a long way to address equality and equity in the workplace.