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Move Back to Nigeria: It’s Never too Late to Move Across Borders! UK Based Lawyer Banke Adeyemo Shares the Story of Her Legal Career Across Continents



Move Back to Nigeria is a new series on BellaNaija. The aim is to encourage young and not-so-young professionals in the diaspora who are trying to make the decision of whether to move back to Nigeria. In collaboration with the brilliant team at, we hope to bring you a weekly interview with individuals who have successfully made the leap. The idea is to share their successes and their challenges as they made the decision.

A lot of Nigerians in the diaspora have questions about making a change at home in Nigeria. Many suggest really good ideas on how to make things better; others would like to contribute to making a difference back home but are just not sure where to begin.

We feature a UK-based lawyer this week. Banke Adeyemo gives her refreshing & candid take on the study and practice of transactional law in the UK, her plans to work in Nigeria and other emerging markets and her tips for people considering making a life or career change. We hope you enjoy it.

Let’s start with introductions: What’s your name and what do you do?
My name is Banke Adeyemo and I’m a lawyer. I practice corporate securities law and have been living and working in London for the past 3 years. I have a serious travel bug and London is the perfect city to jet off from.

When did you originally leave Nigeria and why?
I lived in and out of Nigeria growing up but finally moved away in 2000 to attend university in the US.

Right. Tell us about your educational background.
I studied Computer Science at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania for my undergrad, after which I worked for a couple of years to save up enough to study for my law degree at Georgetown University Law Centre.

Did you start working immediately afterwards?
It’s quite interesting how my career kicked off as I started university during the height of the tech bubble and then watched all the computer science jobs disappear during my degree. Shortly after, 9/11 happened, so it was a really tough time for non-US nationals and computer science graduates without Masters degrees to get jobs. However, as I had always wanted to study law, I decided to apply for a job at Georgetown University using my computer science degree and whilst I was there, I was accepted at the law centre and worked full time throughout the course.  I didn’t have a perfectly well planned cookie cutter life.  I didn’t go to any of the top 10 schools anywhere but I believe that every step I took was the grace of God putting me in the right place at the right time despite what the news, financial climate, intelligent and experienced associates foretold.  Till this day, people ask me why anyone would move from the US to England, I am convinced that it’s all part of a grand plan.

It can be argued that computer science is a far cry from law, how did you end up from the first field of study to the next?
I studied computer science because I wanted to do a degree that I could work with, without needing to get a Masters. I planned to pay for law school myself and so I just wanted a degree I could get a job with and save up enough for law school. Computer science was the most practical degree at the time.  Law however, is what I have always wanted to study. My grandfather was a lawyer and it seemed to my young mind, like the grandest job in the world. I love the work that I do and even in my job now, you can see that the lawyers always position themselves as the smartest people in the room which is a throwback to the grandeur I’ve always associated with the practice of law.

Why then, did you move to the UK after your law degree?
I moved to the UK for strategic reasons.  I intend to focus my practice on emerging markets including the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, particularly Nigeria at some point in the future but a US law degree is not the most useful one for that purpose without relevant, supporting work experience.  I knew that the law I would be doing in the UK would be more international and outward facing, providing the kind of emerging market transactions that I would need. More importantly, the UK is still the financial capital of the world and also more international in terms of the deals and transactions and so I thought the UK work experience would definitely prove beneficial.

Moving to a new country particularly for work, can be daunting. How did you find the transition process?
I actually got a job in the UK before I moved over, so that pretty much smoothed the process for me somewhat. In US law schools, the schools pre-arrange a series of interviews for the students by getting interested firms to come to the school. I, for instance interviewed with about 26 firms, with any firms interested in you giving you a call back which could potentially lead to an offer. After you interview and get a call back, you receive an offer for a summer internship for 3 months after which you may or may not be asked to return for a full time position. Whilst I knew I wanted to come to England, it was not guaranteed, hence my decision to do as many diverse interviews as possible. Interestingly, my firm was forced to lay off a large number of employees at the height of the global financial crisis shortly before I started my summer internship. So in 2009, I did the 3 month internship and in 2010, I moved to the UK permanently.

So you applied for a job in the UK and subsequently moved to take up the position. What does your work involve on a day to day basis and what has the experience of living in London been like for you?
I try not to compare both countries because I think once you move to a new country, one of the easiest ways to get frustrated is by comparing your previous and present locations. I really like living in London as it’s a really fun city, very easy to move around in and there is always something fun and interesting to do. In terms of socialising, London can be a difficult place to crack into because everyone already has their group of friends and people aren’t as friendly as in America but I was lucky. As soon as I moved here, a few very old and very dear friends absorbed me into their social circles and that has made things a lot more interesting. Also, having both a US expat social group and the ever present Nigerian crowd has been a plus because they both provide a ready-made group of people with whom you already have a ton of stuff in common.

My work on the other hand is quite challenging. It is mainly focused on New York securities law and most of my deals are transactions for companies that want to list securities in Europe and sell a portion of those securities in the US. The bulk of my work involves reviewing or drafting prospectuses, reviewing or drafting transaction documents, negotiating auditor comfort letters and arrangement letters and conducting due diligence for clients about to proceed with transactions. Sometimes I’ll have trainings on different aspects of my job as well. It involves a lot of documentation basically seeing as it’s transactional law. In all, I consider the job a service job: If my client has a want and need, we do our best to meet those needs. Lawyers essentially help everybody else to meet their goals or fulfill their dreams.

How so?
In essence, if you want to start a company, or you want to get married, or you even want to end a marriage, or you want to get out of jail or defend yourself against an allegation, lawyers help you achieve whatever it is within the parameters of the law.

I certainly can’t disagree with that. You previously stated that one of your reasons for moving to the UK is the ease of accessing the Nigerian practice because of your UK experience. Does this mean you intend to move back to Nigeria at some point?
Yes, the experience of practicing law in London will stand me in a better stead for a move to Nigeria if that happens, but there’s no definite plan right now in that regard as I prefer to keep my options open. One thing I know I definitely want to do is to help Nigerian companies access the international capital markets in any way possible.  I do not yet know what exactly my role will be in that but I would love to be involved in the Nigerian capital markets and help them in raising money, particularly the kind of money you cannot really raise in Nigeria alone but by accessing UK and US investors. I’m not sure if that would entail me moving to Nigeria but I’m very open to various possibilities. I think Nigeria is a huge up and coming market with lots of potential. Unfortunately, the big issues of unstable power and lack of security persist. If those issues are solved, I’ll move back in a heartbeat.

This certainly makes sense. However, despite you not having an immediate plan to move back, is there any scenario where you would be open to it even with the current infrastructural issues you’ve just mentioned?
The lack of stable power is something that can be managed but in the current state of affairs where there is no security, I do not think I can move back. I certainly recognize that people deal with situations in different ways but this is something I feel quite strongly about. What I have heard referred to as the ‘Colombia-nization of Nigeria’, which is the recent sudden rise of kidnapping of private individuals is not positive and the government needs to do more to protect its citizens of threats of that kind. It’s nice to be able to have a certain amount of confidence in one’s environment so as to thrive and not just survive.

 On a final note, what would you say to other young professionals and also people considering moving across borders as you’ve done?
Be prepared, be practical and have faith.

Be Prepared: My number one tip would be that in law school or any other kind of school, grades are everything. So work as hard as you can and get the best grades you can in preparation for the job market.

Be Practical: Second tip is to preferably try to have a job or at least something lined up before moving to a new city or country. It’s really tough in the current global climate so ‘winging it’ is not the wisest move and that particularly applies for people considering moving back to Nigeria. Nigeria is obviously not the sort of place one just moves to without adequate planning and preparation.

Have Faith:  Believe in God and believe in yourself. My final tip is a general one and it is that, no matter what it is you want to do in life, it is never too late. So even if it’s a big career change, going back to school, ending a bad situation, turning that idea into a start-up, taking a gap year,  or a move to a new city, a new country or a new continent. Waiting around for the best time is really just wasting time, if you really want to do something, just get up now and do it.

Thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward.

Photo Credit:

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  1. Adetokunbo

    July 12, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Interesting – I

  2. Soraya

    July 12, 2013 at 9:55 am

    ok, so how come Bella Naija is suddenly an advocate for moving back to Nigeria???? Anyone who decides to move back does so at their own risk= the country is not safe, infrastructure is poor or non existent, corruption is a problem at every level, Nigerians are lazy, unreliable and not very straightforward and power is in short supply. Even food is not as cheap as it has been made out and you spend endless money on one thing or the other like a tap and there are no ends to the problems you have to face. I hate the fact that people come to see you solely for the purpose of money. All things done and considered, I would think twice about moving back to Nigeria!

    • lilz

      July 12, 2013 at 11:01 am


    • new bride

      July 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      This is the most ignorant comment i’ve read on Bella Naija.

  3. Berry Dakara

    July 12, 2013 at 11:12 am

    “Be Practical: Second tip is to preferably try to have a job or at least something lined up before moving to a new city or country. It’s really tough in the current global climate so ‘winging it’ is not the wisest move and that particularly applies for people considering moving back to Nigeria. Nigeria is obviously not the sort of place one just moves to without adequate planning and preparation.”

    ‘NUFF SAID!!!

  4. Lana

    July 12, 2013 at 11:19 am

    And Alas she’s not even currently based in Nigeria.

    • ij

      July 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Lana may your way never be narrow, pls BN wake us up when she gets to naija.

  5. nita

    July 12, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Nice interview…I need to contact Banke Adeyemo especially with regards to helping Companies in Nigeria get investors. pls assist me wit d contact. Thank you.

  6. Fan

    July 12, 2013 at 11:40 am

    I applaud this new initiative by bellanaija and the Move back to naija team. There are a lot mis-conceptions about Nigerians who live and Work outside Nigeria.
    A lot of people think Nigerians abroad are not necessarily doing well and every one is being exploited and Moving back to naija is the only light at the end of tunnel. I just want to add that there are lot of Nigerians living a good and respectable life outside Nigeria and its alright.
    Glad she is doing what she loves in a location that suits her.

  7. Henry

    July 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Very inspiring….

  8. Mz Socially Awkward...

    July 12, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Yay! A lawyer! Hahaha… that was me just being partial 🙂 However, I was a little misled as I thought she had actually moved back and wanted to see what her experiences were in that particular field i.e. whether she opened her own practise or joined a firm/company, what areas of law are highly sought after by the commercial sector, if her foreign law qualifications are being fully utilized back home, and etc.

    Also, I have to caution that she needs to look into getting her Nigerian Law School quals as well, if she really plans to return to Naija… that and NYSC may be an obstacle in her way.

    • Abana

      July 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Mz Socially Awkward, I am a lawyer to be. Do you work in house or in private practice? It would actually be nice to talk to someone who’s in the system.

    • Mz Socially Awkward...

      July 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      In-house, baybee! Dropped that wig & gown in 2007 and ain’t ever looked back.

      … Okay, that’s a lie, sometimes I miss the buzz of practicing … “beht” then I quickly recall the shoddy wages and remember why I left… You practicing?

    • Mae

      July 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      I keep meaning to try & get in contact with you (mostly for the same reason as Abana) but i’m very wary of putting all my info on the internet (as you can imagine). Could i maybe follow you on twitter or something & then perhaps we could take it from there? Let me know if you don’t mind…
      Obviously, if you’d rather not i’ll respect that (but i really hope you’d rather help. :)). My name is Annie,btw.

  9. IniOnline

    July 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I like the part where she was honest “the current state of affairs where there is no security, I do not think I can move back”. Why is BN encouraging people to move back to Nigeria ? Please too many population in 9ja we need to reduce it, so if some people
    have found good opportunity in Abroad let them!!!

  10. John

    July 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    I’m curious as to how she got her papers to work in the UK, moving from the US? I am in the US and have tried getting jobs in the UK in the past but it has always ended with – do you have papers to work in the UK? Once I answer no, I never hear from them again.

    • jj

      July 12, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      Exactly my thoughts

    • lagos is my Home

      July 13, 2013 at 11:14 am

      To share how i did mine although i am not the author , I too wanted a diverse work experience after working for some years in the States so in 2007 , i played around online and discovered HSMP , noticed that i had the points needed and applied for it . It helped as my transition was a lot easier finding a good job because i had a work permit .
      The key is information knowing what is out there . I also had friends that were able to tap into multinational films that are very opened to filing work permit.

    • Busayo Olupona

      July 29, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      Most likely her law firm employer got the credentials/papers for her. Thats what they typically do.

  11. Guest

    July 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Great interview! I happen to agree with her that security and lack of constant power maybe a problem. Like some one mentioned here, there are some of us that are very successful and would not dream of moving back to Nigeria with it challenges. Additionally, I fear just from what I gather from friends of mine that are employed in Nigeria (Challenges in the work place, like sexual harassment, age discrimination, bribery, working long hours example 7:00am to 7:00pm or longer, hostile work environment etc). Given the freedom and my experience in the U.S. and having laws here that protect its citizens, I don’t know that I would be able to adjust to the inequality in Nigeria. I applaud those who are interested in making this transition to Nigeria or UK and I wish them all the best.

  12. jj

    July 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Just thought about the same thing

  13. Xtsy

    July 13, 2013 at 12:11 am

    Presently in my 3rd continent and have absolutely no plans for naija, even after retirement.

  14. aj

    July 13, 2013 at 2:02 am

    How did she get a job in America if she is not a citizen? im curious to know!

    • Kostana

      July 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      AJ….there are several types of visas for non-citizens to work in the US.

      The most common (which probably applies to most Nigerians) is the H1-B visa. Basically a company sponsors you, files a visa application for you, and you can work in the US for 7yrs BUT only for that company.

      For the person up thread who asked how she got a job in the UK, the same scenario applies. Though I don’t think it’s as common. If a company in the UK considers your skills exceptional, they can apply for visas for you.

      More info on H1-B visa from Wiki; The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status to another non-immigrant status, find another employer (subject to application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or leave the US.

    • Sel

      July 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      @kostana actually you can change companies under H1B. My husband has been on H1B for 2 years and he’s with his 2nd company now. A company would have to file a transfer H1B for you if you are moving to join them. Also you can be on H1B for a maximum of 6 years but some lucky ones get their green cards filed for them by their companies before the 6 years is up.
      Another way you can work in the US without being a citizen is by obtaining a TN visa. This visa is limited to citizens of Canada and some Latin America countries.
      Thirdly if you schooled in the US under an F1 visa, you can obtain an OPT which is a work permit before graduation. With the OPT you are given a month to find employment after which it expires. The OPT is valid for 17 months(I think), however if you did a course that falls under (STEM) you can get a years extension after the 17 months. Most people are able to transfer to the H1B visa before/after you OPT expires.
      Lastly you can work in the USA without being a citizen if the company you are working with outside the USA transfers you to the uSA to work. The company will provide and L1 visa for you.
      Lol I just read a lot before moving here

  15. Chigbo

    July 13, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Move back at your peril!!
    Unless you re living in banana island or something ……even then……….

  16. lulu

    July 14, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Bella Naija how much is the Nigerian govt going to pay for trying to convince its citizeens to move back home???? if you taste the good and secure life outside you wont wnt to come back my own opinion, nothing is progressing in Nigeria apart from the entertainment industry nd everi1 trying to turn the economy in to a private sector despite the fact that we are not there yet, nways even though i come back to nig or i dont come back it still isnt going to make a difference and pple that move back home re those that dnt ve a choice or opportunity that they ll make it in a foreign and but as for me am making mad money here nd leaving a very comfortable and luxurious life here in America so why should i move???? sigh!

  17. laola

    July 15, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    BN this article tricked us o. She didn’t actually move back

  18. D

    July 15, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Actually OPT is for 1 year and I know H-1B is for 5 years max. After 5 years your company can decide to file for permenant residency if not it is carry your bag commot. But yes you can transfer under H-1B as long as the new company is willing to file for you. I just recently found out about the 5 year deal with H-1B because my sister’s company just had to file for her green card.

  19. HX

    July 15, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    Smart gurl!! Great interview! From on hoya to another. Hoyasaxa!

  20. Dee

    July 16, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Moved to Canada less than 2 years ago , I am currently doing the exams to qualify for the Canadian bar. I had my LLB and BL from Nigeria. I am almost done with the Canadian law exams but the thing is , I might have to move to the UK because my fiancee lives and works there. Anyone knows the process of been qualified in the UK with a Canadian law degree or someone who has gone through the process?

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      July 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      I work in-house and currently in the process of getting my UK practicing certificate a foreign trained lawyer. I didn’t need to get the certificate to work for my company but now feel I should give myself the added edge of being dual qualified.

      You can work for a UK company as an in-house advisor but if you decide you’d prefer to practise law, you should look into writing the QLTS exams.

    • Mae

      July 18, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      Now I REALLY need to get in contact with you, cos this is the exact kinda info i needed 5 years ago… PLS, PLS lemme know how we can talk. Let God use you!!! (Loooool :D)

    • Miss Anonymous

      July 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      We share similar a educational background. If you don’t mind, please how did you go about writing the Canadian Bar Exams? Also what type of visa did you apply for?

  21. Zza

    July 16, 2013 at 9:47 am

    Really easy for a Canadian lawyer to find work in the UK if you have impeccable grades. I would advise you to apply to firms first or to get work experience in Canada first.

    • Dee

      July 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      Thanks Zza, noted

  22. boss

    August 2, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    maybe i can give some insight,coming from an average home
    in nigeria ,i have lived in 3 continents now and i can tell you for
    sure if you don;t have ur act right please stop fooling urself
    going back to nigeria.I know cos i have been back twice,first time
    with a british bsc,2nd time with an additional masters from the us
    and job experience.Nigeria favours only the rich ,connected and the
    lucky few,are u one of the lucky few?If u gamble a lot i would say
    go for it,but don’t go to nigeria with any tall dreams.Living is
    not easy for even the average

  23. EvaM

    August 27, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Hmmm. That’s not Banke in that picture…

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