Charles Osuji, a Canada-based Nigerian lawyer, has managed to become a legal luminary in a very short time and against great odds.
After studying law, he was called to the Nigerian bar in 2010. He emigrated to Canada a year later and joined the Smith law firm in 2014.
In 2017, less than three years after joining the Smith law firm, Osuji became the sole proprietor of the same law firm.
He did not just buy a small law firm, he took control of it and guided it towards a constant upward trajectory.
Today, Osuji has earned himself dozens of recognitions in Canada, and his company has received a handful too.
‘I WANTED TO BE A DRUMMER’
Osuji’s recent interview with The PUNCH revealed a little about his earlier years. He grew up with his elder brother, a Catholic priest, and dreamt of becoming a drummer.
“I wanted to be a drummer, but my father didn’t seem impressed when I disclosed that to him. Over time, my interest changed, and I ended up studying law,” Osuji explained.
“I was raised by my elder brother, Reverend Father Anthony Osuji. He taught me to focus and be disciplined. As young as seven years old, I had two options: read or sleep.”
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Osuji’s early grooming prepared him for the challenges of scholarship, and in 2009, he graduated at the top of Imo State University’s law class.
EMIGRATING TO CANADA
Dr. Joseph Osuji, his brother who was a nursing professor at Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta, sponsored his move to Canada and supported him in his first few years in the country.
Osuji worked multiple jobs and moved from one firm to another before he got a chance to work at the law firm he eventually bought.
“I didn’t foresee significant difficulties with getting my foot in the door,” he said. “However, I quickly realised that I had no network here and I did not have the advantage of the connections I had built back home in Nigeria. Moreover, not a lot of people who look like me, who understood my journey and challenges, owned their law firms or were at the table where hiring decisions for lawyers were made.”
“I was doing a lot of survival jobs. I worked in factories and did all sorts of manual labour to survive. I worked three jobs at the same time and barely had the leisure of sleeping more than three nights in a week. It was a really terrible experience.”
MEETING JAMES SMITH
Osuji and James Smith, former owner of Smith law firm, told the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC) how they met and created a partnership.
In the 2018 interview, Osuji said that he respected Smith for his humility, and Smith said that he felt confident to entrust his firm to the Nigerian. Smith told CRIEC that he found Osuji to be deeply knowledgeable and friendly in his 2013 interview.
“As the interview went on, I realised that come hell or high water, I wanted Charles,” Smith said.
“I’ve talked to other lawyers of my ilk and age who haven’t been able to find anyone to take over their practices and know that their clients will be in good hands.
“My clients are in very good hands with Charles. I have always told him that in five years, he will be one of the top lawyers in Calgary.”
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OSUJI AND SMITH
Smith handed over his practice to Osuji after his retirement. Osuji then bought the law firm in August 2017 and became the managing partner of Osuji & Smith law firm.
“We went from seven employees when I bought the firm to more than 24 employees. We have also secured a second location – one of the best-looking, stand-alone modern buildings in the city, which we proudly call ours. In these five years, I have mentored and assisted more than 25 lawyers and legal assistants to obtain their designations through the firm,” Osuji said in his most recent interview.
“I have also given a lot of internationally-trained lawyers an opportunity to kick-start their careers in Canada. We are still expanding and there is still room for more expansion. We are just getting started. Has it always been rosy? I wouldn’t say so, but it has been rewarding.
“Our new office space is four times bigger than my first location, and is located a few minutes from Downtown Calgary. It is brand new, and was recently completed a few weeks ago. We moved in early September 2022. With this second location and the size of my firm, we have become the largest black-owned law firm in the Province of Alberta, and one of the largest in Canada. I built this space because the original location could no longer contain our growth, and I needed to create more room for the ‘Foot in the Door’ programme.”
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
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The Osuji & Smith website has a long list of awards and honours listed after Osuji’s short introduction.
Osuji’s individual awards include a LEXPERT Rising Star recognition for Canada’s leading lawyers under 40, Top 25 Influential Lawyers in Canada (2020) and 2022 Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch.
Osuji & Smith law firm recently won the 2022 Top Choice of Business Law Services in Calgary, the 2022 Best Business in Canada by Canadian Business Review Board, the 2022 Best Employment Lawyers in Calgary, 2022 Best Real Estate Lawyers in Calgary, the 2022 Best Family Lawyers in Calgary and the 2022 Best Divorce Lawyers in Calgary.
Osuji & Smith is an all-service law firm. The company deals with every aspect of litigation except criminal law.
Charles Osuji knows that his meteoric rise is fantastic, but believes he worked hard and prepared himself for it.
He wants young professionals to “keep pushing and getting prepared. When the dots connect, only the prepared will sustain their success.”
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