Interview with Reginald Aziza
Reginald Aziza is an academic scholar, an astute transactional lawyer and a fierce litigator, philanthropist, global citizen and a mentor to many young lawyers. He was born in Aladja, Delta State. The last child in a family of eight. Growing up in the Delta Steel Company complex where his family lived in his early childhood, he was brought up in line with his parents’ high expectations – they expected strong academic performances from all their children and this shaped his attitude to life from an early age. This stood him out amongst his peers, earning him a triple first class.
He graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University with the highest number of awards, proceeded to the Nigerian Law School where he won a number of awards and the overall best male performance with a first class. He also attended University of Cambridge and bagged a first class and winning awards as top 3 of his class with outstanding performance and is currently undergoing is PhD in the University of Oxford.
He is currently an in-house Attorney in Chevron Nigeria. Prior to this, he worked at Olaniwun Ajayi LP as a transactional lawyer and litigator, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP in London, where he was involved in Public International Law and Arbitration. He worked in Shearman and Sterling in Paris. For him, taking up a PhD was a very serious time commitment but ultimately, he thought it was a price worth paying for the potential returns. He also admits that in addition, a PhD gives you a level of flexibility that will otherwise have been difficult to attain and opens up additional vistas in consulting, academia and public service.
Mentors have played a serious role in influencing the career decisions he has made so far. There are three people whose lives he has consciously tried to emulate; Prof. Konyin Ajayi SAN, Paula Hodges QC and Mr. Lucky Nengite. In addition to being phenomenal lawyers, he has worked for all three of them. He admits that Prof. Ajayi’s profile influenced his estimation of what can be achieved academically and his belief that a successful career as a legal practitioner can be built on an exceptional academic foundation.
From experiences garnered locally and globally with some of the world’s most reputable law firms, he firmly believes that many Nigerian lawyers can compete against the best and brightest lawyers globally as seen from the stellar performances of Nigerian lawyers in their post-graduate studies in the globally renowned universities and this has been acknowledged by the global law firms who have become receptive to hiring Nigerian lawyers directly.
He goes on to acknowledge that there is however plenty room for improvement as Nigerian law firms still have some distance to cover in order to develop and deploy the organisational capability required to compete with most foreign law firms. He also highlights issues with revenue, scale and protectionism of domestic markets – Large foreign law firms earn significantly more revenue than Nigerian law firms because they leverage on their size to provide legal services across several jurisdictions. Also, developments in trade laws in these more developed markets means that law firms can be established internationally, providing seamless legal services to clients across different jurisdictions. Whereas the legal practice in Nigeria is closed thereby affecting the revenue. This has limited commercial practice in Nigeria to Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt.
On the creation of the Reginald Aziza Law Scholarship Award, he says that it was something he had thought deeply about for a while and in light of his fortunate circumstances – being the recipient of seven scholarships, he was aware of how different the journey would have been for him but for the benevolence of people he is yet to meet. In these moments of humble reflection, he decided to create the scholarship award and he assessed where a scholarship from him would have the most impact. Looking back on his university days, he had come to appreciate the severe difficulty students went through to fund themselves through their undergraduate studies despite tuition fees being significantly lower than the law school fees. The scholarship is self-funded from his personal savings – the first two were funded from savings from his scholarship in Oxford and there has also been generous additional support from people to provide books and cover some of the living expenses of the recipients. However, there are presently no plans to extend this beyond the Nigerian Law School.
Considering how highly competitive the world has become, he advises young lawyers to study economics and develop and improve on non-negotiable skills such people-skills; leadership, influence, networking, teamwork.
Despite his busy schedule, he admits that he does not seem to have a lot of time outside work but in his free time, he enjoys spending time with family, traveling, and is an avid player of Assassins Creed on my PlayStation. He is also anxiously awaiting release of the PlayStation 5.
Onoriode Reginald Aziza (Reginald) is a lawyer, researcher and social activist. Reginald holds three first-class law results and has in excess of 25 institutional scholarships and awards for academic, personal and professional accomplishment.
Reginald was admitted to the Nigerian Bar in November 2013. Presently, Reginald is a doctoral student of securities law at the University of Oxford, and an Attorney in the Legal Division of Chevron Nigeria Limited, providing legal support to the business on a wide range of contentious and non-contentious issues. Prior to this, Reginald worked in leading law firms in Nigeria (Olaniwun Ajayi LP, Lagos), London (Herbert Smith Freehills LLP) and Paris (Shearman and Sterling LLP) in a career traversing project and corporate finance, capital markets transactions, litigation, and commercial and investment treaty arbitration.
A mentor to scores of young Nigerian lawyers, in 2017, Reginald launched the Reginald Aziza Leadership in Law Scholarship. The scholarship funds bright but indigent students to the Nigerian Law School and thereafter seeks to connect them to job and scholarship opportunities to further their education and careers.