Dr Solomon Osagie

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This was a BLD interview with Debo Nwauzu in April 2008. Read more about Solomon Osagie in the Directory

Our Lawyer of the Month is Solomon Osagie, the Corporate Legal Counsel for Total Systems Services (TSYS) Europe – the European wing of the American electronic payments processing provider. TSYS is one of the world’s largest companies for outsourced payment processing services.

Solomon, who was appointed in 2007, officially took over the role in September 2007 with TSYS’s UK-based legal team in London, which oversees TSYS’s global operations. His work includes commercial and contractual issues, Intellectual Property, Financial Services and Banking, some company secretarial and data protection.

Solomon was born in July 1967 in Sheffield where he grew up until the age of seven when he went to Nigeria because his father took up a post as a regional manager of Philip Morris. He remained in Nigeria until 1990, where he read Law at the University of Benin between 1985 and 1988 and attended the Nigerian Law School between 1988 and 1989. He also did the Nigerian National Youth Service between 1989 and 1990.

Solomon returned to England in 1990. Unsure what to do, he initially started working at the Lord Chancellor’s Department, becoming an executive officer two months into his appointment. Allegedly the first black male appointed by the South Eastern Circuit Office, he describes this period as: “Very interesting times as it was very novel for them to have a black male at the Lord Chancellor’s south eastern circuit office!”  Whilst there he was encouraged by his manager, a Mr Cook, to qualify as a solicitor in England. He soon left the Lord Chancellor’s Office for the London Borough of Newham and at the same time started his Common Professional Examination (CPE) at the Guildhall University, which he completed in 1991. He then did his Solicitor’s Finals at the College of Law, Store Street between 1992 and 1993.

No sooner had he finished his Solicitor’s Finals, Solomon started his MBA at Greenwich University on a part-time basis in 1993, becoming one of the first Lawyer MBAs in 1996. On a roll in 1993, he also joined Hirschfield Solicitors, a medium-sized law firm in East London (which has now merged with Bowling & Co), where he was an Articled Clerk (Trainee Solicitor) between 1993 and 1995. He had obtained a six-month reduction from the two-year training period from the Law Society because of his previous work experience. This was the last post he held which he applied for, as he has been head-hunted for all subsequent posts held since qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales.

On qualification Solomon joined Jay Vadher, a former partner at Hirschfield Solicitors who had set up his own practice, as the firm’s practice manager, doing a substantial amount of publicly-funded work initially in family and crime, then later on crime, welfare and housing law. But by the time he left the firm he was doing predominately housing and consumer credit law and some substantial commercial work. He was responsible for the Quality Mark (Legal Aid Franchise) in crime, family, personal injury, welfare benefits and housing. He became the firm’s managing partner in 1999/2000 and also had a stint as a part-time guest lecturer at the London School of Economics in the late 1990s. Solomon left Jay Vadher in 2006 to join one of his former commercial clients in an in-house General Counsel and Head of Legal role as he had “had enough of the regulatory regime of Legal Aid which made the practice of law not as enjoyable as it used to be”.

He took up his second in-house role on a consultancy basis when he joined AGILISYS, which was working on a huge IT project for the Department of Health and the Treasury. Solomon was appointed to manage that project, combining his legal skills as a lawyer and his business skills as an MBA holder. In his third in-house role Solomon joined Interoute Telecommunications, one of Europe’s largest independent telecommunications companies, where he remained until 2006.

Ever eager for a challenge and the never-ending need to have that “extra factor”, including being one of the first solicitors in England to do an MBA, he started his doctorate in Business Law at Anglia University, finishing his PhD in a record three years part-time between 2002 and 2005.  At this time and only in his 30s, Solomon had already made his retirement plans, obtaining his Diploma in Notarial Practice from Cambridge University in 2005 and in the same year completed his doctorate in Business and Law from Anglia University, qualified as a Notary Public whilst holding down a full-time job.

He was at Interroute when he was head-hunted in 2006 by Global Switch, a leading provider of data centres (for  IT and telecommunications) with offices all over Europe and in Sydney, Australia and Singapore. He was appointed the Group Head of Legal, the company secretary and corporate global affairs counsel at Global Switch. This job, which he described as “exciting and very much loved” involved a lot of travelling.

He was appointed to his current post at TSYS in November 2007 and took up the position in early in September 2007.
In his spare time, Solomon is a part-time guest lecturer at the Holborn Business School since 2006 but he has gradually reduced this over the years. He also writes articles in Business journals in the areas of culture, strategy and business growth.

Solomon is married with two children.

Below is our interview with Solomon:

BLD: Why did you choose a career in law?
SO: Law was something that others who knew me assumed would be a natural calling. For me it wasn’t. I was at a crossroads whilst at school and could have pursued at least two other career paths (including medicine), but I asked myself a simple question: “What would I most probably enjoy doing for the rest of my life?” And it was law – nothing about injustice, righting the world or any of those laudable aspirations, but I do have a deep dislike for injustice, I have to say.

BLD: If you were to choose another role/profession other than law, what would it be and why?
SO: I don’t know, but I suspect it would have to be something to do with fashion - maybe a fashion buyer!!

BLD: What was the best career advice you were given?
SO:  Didn’t really get much in my day. For black kids with a similar background as me with Nigerian parents, you were expected and encouraged to get a professional qualification and law and medicine were always at the top of that list.

BLD: What was the worst career advice you were given?
SO: My father actually wanted me to be an engineer or an accountant. I would have died of lack of interest if I had followed that advice!

BLD: What career advice would you give to other lawyers and budding lawyers?
SO: Only choose law if you have a passion for it. It is a long and hard road sometimes, although it can be fulfilling. It has served me well. But even within the law, be clear as to which aspects of what is a very diverse and broad profession you are interested in. I also do not share the views of people who tell students to: “Follow your dream and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.” That, in my view, is a dangerous philosophy. Dreams and reality are at opposite ends of the “life” spectrum. If your passion is in fact not a realistic or feasible career path then re-think it. Be realistic as to what the prevailing market conditions are and factor them into your judgement. Your personal likes and preferences may not be backed by reality and after all lawyers are about facts.

BLD: Who is the person you most admire (dead or alive) and why?
SO:  I don’t care much for super heroes or the like and there are very many individuals who have done plenty to advance the cause of mankind, so I’ll go with my mother who was selfless in her sacrifices for her children.

BLD: What are you most passionate/happiest about?
SO: I am happy when people around me are happy. I want my children to have a better life than I have and I enjoy making them happy. 

BLD: What are your dislikes?
SO: Disingenuous people, and yes injustice. I think people must always be treated right and with respect regardless of their circumstances in life. I think people should be given opportunities and not prevented from personal development simply because of colour, race or other unjustifiable reasons.

BLD: What was your worst case/worst moment as a lawyer?
SO: I think it would be less sincere of me not to accept that there have been times when I have felt discouraged. Whilst an Articled Clerk I once appeared before a District Judge. My opponent was seating sprawled over his chair, did not once refer to his papers, did not proffer any arguments and still managed to resist in part my application. I don’t believe that his success had anything to do with the merits or his presentation (or lack of it).

BLD: Tell us your professional high point(s).
SO: My appointment and work as General Counsel at a previous organisation (Global Switch) where I had the opportunity to influence organisational effectiveness and growth at group level.

BLD: What was the most famous/interesting case(s) you have handled to date?
SO:  It would have to be a leading consumer finance case – Sterling Credit v Rahman. It established that the limitation period for secured credit loans is 12 years and that within this time a court can re-open a credit agreement. It changed the second tier lending industry and forced creditors to rethink their duty to vary loan agreement rates if they are at inception described as variable. I acted for the borrower, starting at the District Judge level and ending up at the Court of Appeal with leading counsel and we had to argue, as we did successfully, that 10 earlier cases had been decided incorrectly.

BLD: Any professional regrets?
SO: As Sinatra sang: “I’ve had a few.” I once turned down a job where I was pursued vigorously by the company and I think I might have been too hasty. But again, if I had accepted it my career might not have followed the path that it has so my attitude is to learn from every episode.

BLD: If you could rule the world for a day what would you change/do?
SO: I’d like people to have a more realistic and honest view about spirituality. My faith is the most important thing to me and I often wish others could experience the joy of being a Christian. So if I could, I’d like each one to have a taste of my kind of spirituality for a few minutes of their life.
BLD: Do tell us more about your family life and yourself.
SO: I have been married for a number of years to Linda and we have two wonderful kids, Anthony, who is seven and Serena, who is almost two. I generally have a relaxed approach to life. I positively refuse to worry about things and tend to like activity in my life. I hate boredom.