Young Business Lawyer: Women’s Month Edition – Inyene Uko Robert
Full name – Inyene Uko Robert
Organisation – Aluko & Oyebode
Area of Practice – Dispute Resolution
Years of Experience – 10 years
Inyene is a dual-qualified legal practitioner. She is licensed to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and as a Solicitor of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. She is a Senior Associate of the Dispute Resolution Practice Group at the law firm of Aluko & Oydebode. She has acted as part of the counsel team in prominent and high-value litigation and arbitrations. During her time in the Dispute Resolution Team of Aluko & Oyebode, the team has been recognised as one of the world’s leading arbitration practices by Global Arbitration Review’s GAR 100 publication
Inyene has acted as co-counsel in an International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Arbitration (investment treaty dispute arising from expropriation of contractual rights to a Production Sharing Contract relating to a Deepwater oil prospecting license). She successfully advised and represented five consortia of international oil companies in disputes totalling over US$27 billion arising from a unilateral and retroactive change in the profit-sharing mechanism set out in the applicable Production Sharing Contracts
Six Questions with Inyene
What have been some of the most rewarding moments in your legal career so far?
I am grateful to say that there have been numerous rewarding moments in my legal career. I will reference one while I was a junior associate at Aluko & Oyebode. One evening, one of my supervisors asked me to stand in for him in court the next morning for the hearing of a contentious application. Later in the evening, opening up the file, I realised it was a contentious case I had heard about on the corridors of the office and the application was for an order entering final judgement in favour of our client. I studied the file all night and thank goodness I did because the Judge, unexpectedly, requested detailed adumbration. He even stood down the matter. When the case was recalled, I argued my position for what felt like an hour but was probably 20 minutes. I answered every query and hoped I had done enough, especially with a more senior lawyer on the other side. A judgement in the sum of $8,000,000 was delivered in favour of our client. I reference this particular instance because I appreciated my supervisor taking that risk on me and almost every rewarding moment in my career has been as a result of someone ahead of me taking a risk or bet on me. I would like to encourage people to do the same.
What challenges have you faced as a young female lawyer, and how have you overcome them?
Litigation & Arbitration are very tasking and draining, both physically and mentally. As I developed in my career, my personal life developed as well. Finding a way to excel in both spheres of my life and practising excellence in both my family life and the profession has been quite difficult to juggle. As we celebrate equity, I consider it necessary to consider that female lawyers have familial responsibilities which sometimes outweigh those of their male counterparts. Equity will require consideration to be given to those factors to ensure that female lawyers have the tools to excel in both spheres of their lives. Statistically, family men are more likely to be employed than family women and that embodies the challenges faced by young female lawyers.
There is also a misconception that women are not tough enough to handle litigation and that narrative sometimes encourages ‘well-meaning’ acts that limit the opportunities available to young female lawyers to experience the full breadth of a dispute. As you can imagine, this suppresses the fire of young female lawyers to push forward in what is already a challenging profession.
What are some of the trends or changes you anticipate in the legal industry in the near future?
I think there will be an emphasis on improved efficiency and productivity with automation and artificial intelligence. Employees will continue to push for remote work to remain the norm. The great resignation may result in the growth of alternative legal service providers and an effort by law firms and organisations to manage culture and shift mindsets with changes being made to operating models.
How can we ensure that diversity and inclusion are made a core part of the Nigerian legal industry?
I think that diversity and inclusion must be intentional. There is a need for assessment of the impact of policies and practices to take into consideration female lawyers within organisations. As we celebrate equity, we should also embrace equity in representation. Women, qualified women, should be seen top to bottom in every organisation as Partners, Senior Associates, Team leads, Heads of Departments, Junior Associates etc. We also need to actively ensure that women are included at every table both in formal and informal settings, this will bring the perspectives of those women to the forefront and encourage constructive solutions.
Who is one (female) leader you look up to and why?
I respect so many women and leaders in various fields. Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a woman and leader I thoroughly admire. She personifies a woman who has excelled in the different spheres of her life – her education, her work, and her family life.
Finally, in honour of International Women’s Day, how can technology be utilised in ensuring gender equality and equity in law firms?
As I have noted, women must juggle family life with intense work lives. Technology could facilitate efficiency, reduce the time spent on tasks, reduce some administrative tasks, and enable women to work faster and smarter. Technology could also assist with creating flexibility. For instance, the ability to work from home, could assist in women meeting both family and work demands, and possibly create a more levelled playing field for women to compete and excel like their male counterparts in law firms