Following submission of entries and a rigorous screening exercise, three winners have emerged from the second edition of Paul Usoro Pro bono Challenge. The Paul Usoro Challenge is an initiative of the Paul Usoro & Co law firm (“PUC”), which encourages young lawyers to take on pro bono or unpaid cases, as a way of rendering selfless services to the community and supporting persons who are not able to afford legal fees.
The lucky winners were selected after the entries received were evaluated by a panel of independent judges, comprising senior lawyers including a Deputy Director of the Legal Aid Council and a senior counsel in a reputable top tier Nigerian law firm. To ensure transparency, the entire process of collation was conducted and facilitated by DKK Nigeria, an independent and leading public relations consultancy agency in Nigeria.
According to the results, the winner of the first prize for this second edition of the Challenge is Halimat Adeniran of the Uniosun Legal Clinic. She is the team lead of Uniosun Legal Clinic, a group of young lawyers who have handled up to 35 pro bono matters within South-Western Nigeria. Halimat received a cash prize of ₦100,000 while the first runner-up, Olanipekun Nelson received the sum of ₦70,000 and second runner-up, Tonye Clinton, received the sum of ₦50,000.
Speaking on the second edition of the Challenge, Paul Usoro, SAN said, “the competition was born out of an overwhelming desire to reward young Nigerian lawyers who render free and selfless legal services to their communities. Lawyers should show empathy towards the less privileged persons in the society, especially women and children, most of whom are not able to pay for legal services. It requires a lot of patience and personal sacrifice to take steps to listen, recognize, understand and/or address the complaints of persons from whom one ordinarily expects no pecuniary or other rewards”.
In the same vein, Munirudeen Liadi, Head of Chambers at PUC stated that, “this second edition provided a wider range of opportunities for more lawyers between 1-15 years post call experience to showcase and inspire colleagues with their touching Pro Bono cases, as against the 1-10 years post call eligibility criteria adopted for the first edition. The initiative is intended to reward the selfless and sacrificial efforts of lawyers who go the extra mile to defend the defenceless, ultimately restoring confidence and respect to the rule of Law in Nigeria”.
Commenting on the pro bono initiative, Halimat Adeniran, the first prize winner, expressed her gratitude to the organizers of the challenge for encouraging young lawyers to render professional service at no cost. “I feel happy and excited winning the challenge. It is an amazing experience for me considering that with my few years at the Bar and engagement in pro bono services, I have been able to give back to humanity. It is also very inspiring to know that Paul Usoro, SAN and the PUC team have taken it upon themselves to reward young lawyers who are engaged in pro bono services”.
She added that being the first female winner made her “feel so proud of this lofty achievement. For me, it is a firm recognition of my advocacy for the less privileged who cannot afford the services of a lawyer. More importantly, it is a collective achievement for all young female Counsel, and in particular our female Law Students in Osun State University, College of Law Ifetedo Campus’’. She encouraged young lawyers especially the females to take up more pro bono legal services most especially on issues that concern women.
The second edition of the competition mostly featured humanitarian issues, particularly brutality to civilians by law enforcement agents, gender-related issues and child abuse.