Making an impact: Simisola Obatusin

First-year transactional lawyer Simi Obatusin brings an international perspective to her work, having grown up between Los Angeles and Lagos. She discusses the role law can play in shaping society and the human side of corporate law.

Photo credit: Thomas Donley, New York

The experience of living in Nigeria and going to school in the States shaped my interest in international law. I thought practicing law could be a profound way to change the society you live in. It is the foundation of society. That’s why there’s often an aspirational aspect to the work of lawyers – they want to use the law to make people’s lives better.

My background is in international relations and international development. I also spent some time working for a human rights NGO, and saw how you could use the law to advocate for people whose interests are in some way sidelined. I became a corporate lawyer because I wanted to develop my understanding of the corporate legal landscape. I want to be involved in creating laws and regulations that can promote a society’s economic development. This practice gives you a very strong grasp of how the international global economy works, how capital moves and how business leaders make important decisions.

Prior to joining Clifford Chance, I did not expect that certain aspects of my work would be as interesting as I have found them to be. Almost anything can interest me, so long as it’s plugged into the international economy.

What I personally value is when people invest in me as a junior lawyer. We have a senior associate on one of my teams who I really like working with; not only is he smart and eloquent, but he gives me very good feedback. When he sends comments about my work, he says, “If you want to know why I made these edits, feel free to come by my office,” and he always takes the time to check in about what I’m doing.

The desire for work-life balance is strong in my generation of lawyers. Being able to explore personal interests makes us better lawyers and generally more interesting to work with. It’s stressful sometimes, and you can be consumed by the long hours, but you don’t want to burn out. I try to get to the office super early on busy days, as it’s when I am most productive. I find that getting a jump on my work makes more time in the evening for the other things I want to do.

I’m involved with the firm’s Black and Latino Subcommittee, and it’s been fun working with the other associates in a different context, such as planning our celebration of Black History Month. I also enjoy doing pro bono work because of the skillset, people and organizations it exposes me to. Getting involved can make a big law firm feel smaller. It also means you are making a different kind of investment in your firm.