How to be an Award-Winning Leader in the Legal Industry – Chidi Onyeche – S5E3

This week on the Legally Speaking Podcast, our host Robert Hanna welcomes Chidi Onyeche.

Chidi is currently an associate at Latham & Watkins working in the Project Development and Finance Practice. She is also a member of the firm’s Africa Practice.

Chidi is also a non-executive director of the Making of Black Britain Project, a governor at Connaught School for girls and was previously a trustee of the Young Advisor Charity. Chidi is also the co-founder of an online platform called theUltimate Guide Group which focuses on providing information to the black community on careers, finances, property investing and wellness.

In 2021, Chidi is the winner of Under-33 Lawyer of the Year by First 100 Years’ The Inspirational Women in Law Awards.

In this episode, she discusses the following:

  • The innovative legal solutions that she provides to clients doing business in Africa as part of the firms’ Africa practice
  • Her platform “Ultimate Guide Group” and how she helps young people in succeeding in their own chosen fields
  • The importance of LinkedIn in doing legal profession
  • Her project “The Making of Black Britain” and how she got involved in it
  • Diversity, inclusion and black representation in top universities, legal profession

Show notes

Here are 3 reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Learn the importance of LinkedIn whilst in the legal profession.
  2. Gain an insight into the platform ‘Ultimate Guide Group’.
  3. The diversity, inclusion and black representation in top universities.


Episode highlights:

Chidi’s background:

  • Chidi is Nigerian.
  • Her parents came to the UK as students in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • She is the 2nd of 4 children.
  • She was raised by her mom and grandma.
  • She went to school in East London and Essex.
  • Chidi went to Oxford to study law.
  • Offered at training contract at Latham & Watkins and done the LPC in 2015.

The major challenges Chidi has faced so far in her legal career:

  • She spent time trying to understand what it meant to be a solicitor, lawyer and associate.
  • Learning there were other careers besides being a lawyer, she may have chosen another route.
  • Not being exposed to different careers.
  • Learning on the job.
  • Learning the soft skills you need to be a lawyer and a good professional.

What is the different between a mentor and sponsor?:

  • Chidi uses the analogy of going to a party:
  • At the party, your work peers are present – the people you trained with and those in your department.
  • They provide the support you need; they provide enjoyment – but they are capped at what they know.
  • Your mentor is somebody you speak to, if you want to get drinks or into the VIP section. Your mentor will provide the base for you to make introductions.
  • Your sponsor is someone who has been at the party for a very long time. Your sponsor is speaking in the rooms, where you’re not present.
  • You cannot have your sponsor or mentor tell you what to do, to create the perfect career – you have to put in the work.

Life as an associate at Latham & Watkins:

  • Chidi is an associate in the project finance and development team.
  • This is about the financing of projects, in emerging markets.
  • In a lot of projects, the government is not able to fund the development, so this goes to external institutions.
  • The projects help generate cash low and benefit the country.
  • For example, pre-Covid, you would pay for your plane ticket. This would include your taxes, charges and carrier fees. You are a lender, lending to the airport.
  • Your plane ticket makes up 50% – 60% of the ticket. This needs to be sufficient and robust to maintain the projects in the airport.
  • Chidi largely works in Africa and the Middle Eastern part of Europe.
  • As part of her role, she ensures stakeholders, lenders and sponsors get a return back, in monetary value.

Standout projects:

  • Chidi’s department alliances with governments.
  • This involves a country’s minister or President signing into existence a piece of infrastructure, which is going to develop the country.
  • Energy transition, climate change and renewable energy are prevalent topics and lenders are keen to invest.
  • Last year, Chidi worked on a project in Sweden, working with European car manufacturers on the development of a battery car factory.
  • Car brands like BMD, LD, Volkswagen and Porsche were part of the project.
  • Chidi explained as a result of getting more responsibility and understanding what she was doing, it became a lot more interesting.

About ‘The Ultimate Guide Group’ and why Chidi decided to co-found it:

  • The platform is looking to empower the black community through education on careers, wellness, mental health, financing and investing property.
  • It’s meant to be your guide to adulting.
  • It is about working out, how best you can position yourself to allow you to take advantage of any opportunity.
  • The team are currently working on content to provide to the audience and community.
  • The idea was born out of Covid.
  • The inaugural session in May 2020 had 1,000 people on the platform because the team publicised it and the session lasted for 2 hours.
  • The team realised there was a gap, people wanted to find out information, but didn’t know where to go for it.
  • The Ultimate Group Guide has 3000 followers on Instagram and now has a YouTube Channel.

‘The Ultimate Guide Group’:

  • Run monthly webinars.
  • Instagram knowledge bytes.
  • On YouTube, the group have a few videos.
  • Currently, the group are contemplating in-person events, courses and newsletters.

How important LinkedIn is for those going into the legal profession:

  • LinkedIn is the Instagram for professionals.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is fine-tuned.
  • Take time to ensure your LinkedIn is curated to the professional you want to be.
  • The Ultimate Guide Group have content on how to update your LinkedIn profile.

The ‘Making of Black Britain and why Chidi wanted to get involved:

  • There were an influx of black British people from the Caribbean and, Africa and the Commonwealth, coming to rebuild Britain.
  • The way African history and Caribbean history is told, is orally.
  • This sustains centuries of destruction and pillage – it is the best way to learn about history.
  • The group are preserving what is a commonplace amongst black people globally.
  • Latham & Watkins’ black lawyers group and pro bono effects also contributed.
  • The group are currently creating an archive, getting people involved and ensuring the legal framework is evident.
  • Chidi’s story will be part of the archive and people can learn more about her.
  • The project preserves culture developed over centuries.

Black representation at partner level:

  • Less than 3% of partners in law firms are black.
  • Chidi explained if you want to create a diverse workplace, people need to see representation of themselves at the top.
  • The number of black women is less than 3%.
  • Law firms have been focusing on retention and promoting black talent.

Law firms and improvement:

  • How can we assist individuals of colour?
  • Working out the strategies, re-adjusting and rectifying the last 18 months.
  • Bridging the lost connection, we have had within the black lawyers group.

5 powerful quotes from this episode:

  1. “I think it’s incredibly important…people should definitely take some time out to get curated, to be the professional you want to be”.
  2. “But I actually remember like writing letter to my auntie who’s based in the States, and writing letters to my like grandparents who, who were based before they passed away in Nigeria, whereas actually, the way in which both African history and Caribbean history is told, is orally”.
  3. “You need to learn the soft skills and also the job as well”.
  4. “And so as a result of getting more responsibility and understanding what I was going, it became a lot more interesting”.
  5. “And so I think it is incredibly important, I do think you do need to make sure that you’ve really fine-tuned your LinkedIn profile”.

If you wish to connect with Chidi, you may reach out to her on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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To learning more about the exciting world of law, Robert Hanna and the Legally Speaking Podcast Team.


 00:01 Rob Hanna:

Welcome to the legally speaking podcast. I’m your host Rob Hanna. This week I’m delighted to be joined by Chidi Onyeche. Chidi is currently an associate at Latham and Watkins working in the project development and finance practice. She is also a member of the firm’s Africa practice. Chidi is also a non-executive director of the making of black Britain project, a governor at Connaught school for girls and was previously a trustee of the Young Advisor charity. Chidi doesn’t stop there. She’s also the co-founder of an online platform called The Ultimate Guide group, which focuses on providing information to the black community on careers, financing, property investing, and wellness. And if that wasn’t all impressive enough, Chidi was also honored by Involve the inclusion people as a future leader in 2021. So a very, very warm welcome, Chidi.

00:56 Chidi Onyeche:

Hey, guys, that sounds like such a nice introduction. So thanks so much.

01:01 Rob Hanna:

Our absolute pleasure and it’s amazing to have you on the show. And before we dive into all your wonderful achievements and what you’re doing for the legal industry, we do have a customary icebreaker question here on the show. So, on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being very real, how real would you rate the hit TV series Suits in terms of its reality?

01:22 Chidi Onyeche:

Oh, God, like one. I wish I looked that good every day.

01:32 Rob Hanna:

Fair enough. I think given that you’re at a serious US law firm, you can give that a proper one rating. So we will move swiftly on. So let’s start at the beginning, tell us a bit about your family background and upbringing.

01:44 Chidi Onyeche:

Yeah, sure. So, in case you can’t tell from my name, I am Nigerian. My parents came into the UK as students actually in the 70s and 80s and they met while they were here. They decided that they were going to settle here and be here and so they had like myself and my siblings and I’m the second of four kids in the UK. And then, like my mum and dad got divorced around the time I was like 11 so we ended up being raised just by my mom, my grandma actually came over and helped raise us too. And I went to school in East London. And so at the time, I’m showing my age here a little bit, but at the time, you didn’t need to go to school post 16, so you could like stop at 16 and start working. And because a lot of the students in my kind of area didn’t really go on to higher education, or to like college education or school stopped at 16. I then went to another state secondary school in Essex and I was really lucky. I made my way to Oxford and studied law. And then I took two years out after university, one because I didn’t get any graduate job offers. And two because I wanted to live my life. I was quite young for a year. And then luckily, in a year after I finished university, I ended up getting a training contract offer at Latham and I’ve been training at Latham since 2016 but did the LPC in 2015. So I’ve been an associate now, for the last three, just over three years.

03:17 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, wow. And congratulations on all of that you pack that in, there’s a lot you’ve achieved there in a very short space of minutes. But thanks so much for sharing that. So I guess following on from all of that, what would you say are the major challenges you’ve had to overcome so far in your legal career?

03:36 Chidi Onyeche:

Um, that’s a really good question actually. In my legal career, I suppose there are two main ones, right, I think one of them is lack of exposure. And actually, I think they’re kind of intertwined. So lack of exposure and lack of awareness. So as a first generation, British person, immigrant family, my parents are coming from learning how to, like bring up kids in Nigeria and hoping for the best, but that can kind of be transposed into the UK, which then means that kind of things that would work quite well in Nigerian society don’t work as well. Some of them do, but not all of them work as well, when you get here in the UK, which then meant that I spent a lot of my time trying to understand exactly what it meant to be a solicitor, be a lawyer, be an associate, and that I think, hindered a lot of my applications in my second and third year. And then it was also just not understanding what else is out there. Had I known that there were other careers outside of being a lawyer, I don’t think I would have changed. Like, I really do love my job So I don’t think I would have chosen a different career. But I definitely feel like I would have had different experiences for me to make sure that this is exactly what I wanted to get into. So I think that it’s had an impact that the lack of exposure or lack of exposure is the wrong word I think, I think it’s more the not being as aware of what’s out there and then as a result, not being exposed to the different careers that one could take, I think, has had an impact on my career as a whole. In terms of my legal career, that means that you are learning a lot on the job, like you’re learning how to do the job. And then also learning the soft skills that you need to do to be a lawyer and to be a professional in general. And those are things that I’ve thankfully had mentors and sponsors to help me along that road. But if you don’t have those individuals, you end up thinking that you could just do the job. And that’s not part of it. You need to learn how to the soft skills and also the job as well. So yeah, I think it’s probably those two are the ones that stand out to me the most.

05:35 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, and you gave some really good practical advice there. And for people who may be not so familiar with sponsors, you mentioned mentors and sponsors, what’s the difference? In your view?

05:43 Chidi Onyeche:

Yeah, so I actually got this really great, shout out to I O. Gabriel, he is a wealth manager at Goldman Sachs, he provided this amazing analogy, which I think is exactly like, it fits my life a lot, actually. So imagine, like, so he was saying, imagine you’re going to a party, right. And so you are going to this, like, you know, top of the range, really popular club, and you are going with your girls or the guys or whatever. And those in, like in the work context are your peers. So for me, it’s largely the people that I like, came up with, I trained with, or in my like, department around my same level. And those are like, in the analogy, my girls and guys that I go to the club with, so they provide me the support that I need, they provide me the enjoyment that I need, but they’re like, you know, kind of capped at what they know. So they know what they know. Then your mentor is somebody, once you get into the club, who’s like, hey, like, this is the person that you need to speak to, if you know, you want to get some drinks, or this is the person that you need to speak to, if you want to, like get into the VIP section, or this is the person that you want to speak to if you want to speak to the DJ and get the music that you want to listen to. And then your sponsor is actually somebody who’s been at the party for a very long time. And knows the club owners, knows the various different people who are there. And so has spoken to the bouncer and says, Hey, Chidi’s coming with her friends. So please let her in. And she’ll show you her ID and let you know who she is. And then it goes to the person who is at the VIP section is like, hey Chidi is coming so please make sure there’s space for her when she comes and goes to the DJ is like Chidi loves Afrobeats so please make sure when she comes that you’re playing her Afro beats, and then it means that once you get into the place, you just go through, right  the bouncer knows that you’re coming, you’ve got the VIP section sorted, and the music is there. The reason why I love that analogy is because it shows the different roles that the mentor and sponsor plays in a workplace, your mentor will basically provide you with the Intel base for you to make those introductions and make it work for you whereas your sponsor is kind of speaking in rooms that you’re not present in to allow it to be easier for you to do the best that you can but it requires you to do some work, right? You can’t just go to the party and sit down and be as boring as ever. And people are like, I don’t know why she’s here. Like she obviously isn’t enjoying herself. Why don’t you go home. And the same thing with work, right? You can’t just have your sponsor or mentor tell you all these various different things about how it is that you can create a really great career for yourself. And then you not perform or you perform sub standardly, or in a way that doesn’t align with their reputation what they need from you. So I think that that analogy is one of the best analogies I’ve heard. And it’s quite an easy way to understand the difference between mentor and sponsor, and then the ones that you need to do, as the mentee and sponsee is the equivalent.

08:30 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, and I absolutely love that, brilliant. Yeah, I love that nightclub menagerie, I was having visions of myself and I used to go to nightclubs and when you get to VIP drinks and all of that, you’re bringing back loads of memories. You’re currently, as of today, an associate at the world leading Latham and Watkins. So tell us a bit about what your role encompasses and the types of clients you’ve dealt with and currently dealing with?

08:55 Chidi Onyeche:

Yeah, of course. So I’m an associate in our project finance and development team. And for those who may not know what project finance or development, finance is, in essence, it’s the financing of like projects in largely like emerging markets. So if you think about your roots, your pipelines, your airports, your trains, etc. In largely emerging markets, a lot of the time the government doesn’t have the budget to be able to fund the development of those projects. So what it does is it goes to external institutions, either in country or out of country, so within the country that they govern, or the countries around the globe and say, Hey, we’ve got this really great project, we think it is going to be create, like fantastic cash flows and it’s going to be a real benefit to our country, but also to you as the person who’s provided the financing, please can you give us financing and then if financiers or the lenders or other kind of agencies that provide financing to that project, will look at the project and say, okay, I can get comfortable with being able to lend this money out the door on the basis that this project would create cash flow, And the easiest way to kind of align it is if you’re thinking about, like an airport. So pre COVID, where everybody was able to go on holiday whenever they wanted and no PCR tests, and no quarantine, all that kind of stuff. You could just go today, buy a ticket for tomorrow, and hop on a plane,  you know that your ticket isn’t just the cost it takes you to get from, you know, A-B, you obviously need to pay your taxes, your carrier fees, your charges, and all that kind of stuff. And it’s those taxes, charges and carrier fees, that if you’re a lender who’s lending into an airport, you’ll look at to make sure that there’s enough revenue there so that you can make sure that you get your cash back. And so what is in project financing is the cash flows. So that little bit at the bottom, which normally makes up like maybe 50 to 60% of your ticket price, it needs to be sufficient and robust enough to kind of operate and maintain the projects so in the case of an airport, it needs to allow, you know, maintenance to take place, the cleaning staff to be able to clean, the pilots to be paid the air, flight attendants to be paid and all that kind of stuff, everything that means the airport can run. And then the next thing for the most part is to pay back the people who have lend it you’ve lent into the property into the project. So if you’re thinking about like lenders or financiers, they need to make sure that they get their money back plus interest. And then the government or any sort of sponsor also need to make sure that they get some sort of return. So they get some sort of benefit from the fact that they’ve put together this project. And the idea behind it is that you’re developing the emerging market. So I largely work in Africa and the Middle Eastern part of Europe. So you’re developing a country, but also making sure that everybody, every other stakeholders, so the lenders and the sponsors, get some sort of money and get some sort of return back as well.

11:53 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, I love that. Thank you, again, for being so detailed in what you do. And that was kind of dovetails very nicely because I was going to say you were a member of the firm’s or are a member of the firm’s Africa practice. And you know, you do a lot of innovative legal solutions to clients doing businesses in Africa. So has there been any sort of standout projects or things you’ve been involved in that you could tell us that you’ve been particularly like, impressed or wowed by that you didn’t think possible when you first came into the firm or didn’t have knowledge about?

12:18 Chidi Onyeche:

Yeah, no, for sure. I mean, a lot of our clients are like governments or key stakeholders, like we don’t do corporate financing. So if you think about it like HP or Dell or Apple, they, for the most part will have some sort of like financing, and some sort of lending, because leverage is, is king in the finance world. We don’t do that kind of stuff. That’s a different type of financing, our leveraged finance group covers that. So a lot of the work that we do will be with governments, and so it’s quite cool, you know, to go into it when we went into the office, and now it’s all via zoom in Microsoft Teams. But seeing like a minister of a country, or the president of a country as they’re like trying to like, you know, sign into existence, this piece of infrastructure, which is going to develop the country. One of the things I suppose, the closest, like the work I do I really love but it’s not like, I wouldn’t call it sexy. But one of the extremes, the closest, sexy adjacent work that I did with this deal I did it last year in Sweden. And that I mean, right now, energy transition, and climate change and renewable energy is something that’s massive, and it’s basically everything that our lenders are talking about at the moment. And so if you are applying, FYI, and a team does a lot of finance work, factor that into your application process, because it’s everything that our lenders are talking about right now. And so one of the, the deal that we did was the development of a battery car factory in Sweden, and as a result, we ended up working a lot with the European car manufacturers. So BMW, LD, your Volkswagen, your well, actually, now we’re working with Porsche. So that’s probably the most interesting deal I personally have done. I think at that time, I was like getting to be a second year so getting a bit more responsibility in terms of the deal signed to understand what project finance was trying to do. And so as a result of getting more responsibility and understanding what I was doing, it became a lot more interesting. And like I said, it was sexy adjacent as I was working with BMW and Audi.

14:34 Rob Hanna:

There we go. Love it. Love the way you link that, awesome.

15:34 Rob Hanna:

So you know, you don’t stop at a standstill. You also, as I mentioned in my introduction, are the co- founder of The Ultimate Guide group. So that’s a platform which aims to give young people the key tools needed to succeed in their chosen field. So tell us a bit more about the platform and why you decided to co found it with your friends.

15:50 Chidi Onyeche:

Sure. So the platform is literally as you said, is looking to empower, in particular the black community through education on careers, wellness, mental health, financing, investing property, etc. And it’s essentially meant to be your guide to adulting. The idea behind it is that if you’re ever thinking about investing or property or you know, thinking about wellness or careers, and working out how best you can position yourself to allow yourself to take advantage of some of the things that are out there that probably aren’t as well known, or that, linking back to the exposure and awareness point that I was talking about before then it should be like a lightbulb like I’m sure The Ultimate Guide group covers this. And so we’re working through all of the content to be able to be to provide that to our audience and our community. And so actually, it got born out of COVID, to be honest, and one of the co-founders is a teacher now based in Dubai, but was based in Hackney previously. So she had asked myself and my friends to come in and give a talk about credit scores, credit cards, APR, etc, to her students. And so we planned to do that in like the 20th of March 2020. And obviously, lockdown happened on the 16th of March 2020. And so we were like, okay, no worries, like, everything has gone online now so let’s create a virtual session for it. So we ended up doing our inaugural session in like May 2020, I expected maybe like 10 or 20 people to be on the platform, we ended up with 1000 people on the platform, because we just publicized it. And then our friends publicized it and their friends and have publicized it and got it out to teachers and various different places. And also long session, it was like two hours, but it was actually quite meaty in terms of the advice that we were giving. And then we realized that there was a gap that people wanted to find out this information, but just didn’t know where to go for it. And so that’s kind of where it was born. And so now we’re coming up to 18 months in terms of like, you know, since we created it, and we’ve got coming up to like 3000 followers on Instagram, we’ve got a YouTube channel. And we are looking to do a lot more stuff. There’s a lot of content and ideas in the works. It’s just, you know, life happens. But I think it is going to be a really great platform. And we’ve got some really great feedback in the last 18 months as well.

18:15 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, and I’m a massive fan of the platform and love what you’re doing. I think it’s so great that current practicing lawyers going through journey are giving back and you touched on it there as well. You know, you do monthly webinars, you do courses, you do Instagram knowledge bytes, which I think is brilliant, you know, how can any listeners get involved? Or what could they expect? You touched on it that is more to come? When it comes to the Ultimate Guide group in the future. What can you sort of give us some snippets of?

18:39 Chidi Onyeche:

So if anybody does want to get involved, do you feel free to follow us on Instagram, it’s @theultimateguidegroup. And it’s the same on YouTube as well, we’ve got a couple of videos on there, we’ve got a lot of content on the Instagram platform as well. And we have been contemplating in person events, courses, and newsletters and a lot of collaborations actually working in the background. So if you do want to get the first kind of access to all of this stuff, make sure that you’re following us on the ultimate guide group on Instagram and on YouTube.

19:17 Rob Hanna:

There you go. There you have it, folks. Talking about platforms, you know, you recently produced, I think posted helpful tips about creating your LinkedIn profile. You know, I’m a big advocate for LinkedIn, as most people know, how important do you think LinkedIn is for those going into the legal profession? And how do you think individuals can utilize that to their own advantage?

19:40 Chidi Onyeche:

Yeah, I mean, it’s the same with like Instagram, right? How important is Instagram to like Gen Z and say millennials, like super important. It’s exactly the same. It’s just a different social media platform. And LinkedIn is, you know, the Instagram for professionals. And so I think it is incredibly important, I do think you do need to make sure that you’ve really fine-tuned your LinkedIn profile. It’s not just meant to be there with like, an avatar, so no actual picture. And then like think you haven’t touched it in the last 20 years. It’s been a great way for people like yourself, Rob, and a number of individuals. I’m actually planning on doing another webinar, and I’ve been invited to various other panel sessions as a result of my LinkedIn profile. So I think it’s incredibly important and people should definitely take some time out to get that curated to be the professional that you want it to be. And I would follow the ultimate guide group and check our posts. If you are looking to update your LinkedIn profile we went through bit by bit from like your URL up to your like skills and experience. So I think that’s the best way for you.

20:54 Rob Hanna:

Definitely check it out people and I use the analogy with all of these different platforms, these are your digital real estate assets, you know, you’ve got to look after them and protect them and make them look good. It’s like your own physical home as an asset, you wouldn’t necessarily keep it very untidy people come in and say, Wow, that’s a mess. You know, you’re probably house proud. So when people come in, oh, wow, lovely, there was a nice scented candle, I got a drink on reception, you know, these digital assets are out there working for you, 24/7. So you having that extension of your digital assets, promoting yourself and up to date is one of the best things you can do. And you never know who’s looking, it could be that sponsor, it could be that mentor, could be that future employer. So really take action and check out that information on the ultimate guide group. Okay, so we must move on as there’s so much to get through. So you also recently became the non-Executive Director of the making of black Britain. So a collaborative digital archive offering historians and future generations new insights and perspectives on this pivotal time in modern history. Can you tell us a bit more about the project and why you wanted to get involved?

21:51 Chidi Onyeche:

Yeah, of course. And so actually, the project should be launching at some point this month, or if not, early next month. But in essence, most people will know that kind of empire when Russia after the Second World War, that Britain invited a number of its Commonwealth subjects to come and rebuild the UK after the Second World War. And so there was an influx of black British people from the Caribbean, from Africa, and from all over the Commonwealth, in essence, coming to rebuild Britain. And one thing that we realize in particular, as it relates to oral history, is that black British history is almost nonexistent. We are and our parents, I don’t know Rob if it’s the same for you. But I actually remember like writing letters to my auntie who’s based in in the States, and writing letters to my like grandparents who, who were based before they passed away in Nigeria, whereas actually, the way in which both African history and Caribbean history is told, is orally. That’s actually the best way that we, as a people, and something actually that sustains centuries of destruction and pillage, it continues. And that’s the best way that we learn about history. So that was the genesis of the archive to make sure that we were kind of preserving what is commonplace amongst black people globally. And also making sure that we have that available for the next generation. So we have our recent history, but also making sure that we have our oral history. And so we actually got involved as a result of Latham’s black lawyers group and the pro bono efforts. We’ve been talking for the last year and a half as we’re trying to create the archive and get people involved and make sure that the legal documentation, and the framework is as it needs to be, which has been fantastic. And it’s been great. And it’s spearheaded by Diane Louise Jordan, who I think most people remember is like, you know, the biggest celebrity on Blue Peter. I remember like watching her when I came back from school and stuff. And so they have actually taken my story. And so that also will be part of the archive. There’s another place that people can find out a little bit more about me. And then when, as a result of us having worked together for about 12 to 15 months, and me giving my story, they were like, we have this really great question to ask you would you like to be our non-Executive Director, and considering that it’s something that is credibly important to me, and like making sure that our history is preserved, but also preserved in a way that kind of harks back to the way that our cultures have developed over centuries  was really great. And so it was kind of a no brainer to me.

24:45 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, brilliant. And thanks so much, again, for going into detail to share that. And you know that again, moving on, you’ve also talked about how you are passionate about increasing diversity at top universities, and in the legal profession and professions in the city. So what are your thoughts on black representation at partner level?

25:03 Chidi Onyeche:

They’re pretty bad. There was a report that came out, and less than 3% of partners in law firms are black. And that is worrying, right? If you want to create a diverse workplace, people need to see representation, people need to see themselves represented in the individuals that are on top. And if you look at that number, the number of black women is even less than 3%. I think it’s like less than 0.1%. It’s crazy. It’s a crazy number. And so is something that I think a lot of law firms, in particular in the last 18 months have been paid like attention to working out how best we can retain and more importantly promote their black talent. But it’s something that we as a firm, we as a profession will need to work out how we can move the needle in the right direction.

25:58 Rob Hanna:

Yeah. And that leads to my next question. So I was gonna say in terms of diversity, what would you say law firms might be doing well, but also what do you believe still needs to be improved upon?

26:07 Chidi Onyeche:

Yeah, for sure. So our firm, one of the reasons why it will take a lot before, we never say never, but I think it will take a lot before I       leave them is because there is a combination of an amazing things like really are important to me. So I have individuals that are kind of the top of their game in terms of the legal profession, in London, and like globally, then I also have the ability to give back to the communities that raised me. So through my commercial work in Africa, and then also pro bono work in East London, in particular, the black community. But there’s been a real focus on making sure that individuals are looking at, the firm in general is looking at how best to recruit, retain and promote black talent. And one of the things I think the profession, unfortunately, does, is group all kind of ethnic minorities together, which is like not, is just doesn’t make sense, right? Because what is what is facing a Persian man is different to what is facing me as a black woman, and what faces you know, a South East Asian woman is different to what faces my friends as born and raised Africans who came over to London to study. And so that was one of the great things that Latham is doing. I think that the last 18 months have been difficult for everybody. And what we need to be doing now is working out how it’s impacted in a different way, if not more intensely, those individuals of color, particularly black people, and that’s something that our firm is sitting down or working out the strategies as to how we correct the 18 months of, disruption is the wrong word, uh it’s been a very, like, what’s the word win, it’s almost like not groundbreaking, but it has completely shaken the table, I suppose to use a colloquial term. And so we just need to like re adjust and work on what we can be doing to rectify those 18 months and that lost connection that we’ve had within the black lawyers group.

28:24 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, really well said Chidi. And just to sort of wrap up, you were recently featured in this year’s involve heroes, woman role model list. A list of 100 women, future leaders, which showcases leaders who are championing women in business and driving change the gender diversity in the workplace. Firstly, how did you manage to do all of this? What does it mean to you to be recognized in this way?

28:45 Chidi Onyeche:

I don’t know. I asked myself this a lot. Actually, I don’t know where to find the energy over time. And I’m really thankful that I’m a person that if I’m like, if I tell you that I’m going to sleep, I’m going to sleep straight away, like asleep standing up. And I can also have very deep sleep as well. So then it means that like, if I get into bed, like now at like, you know, 1:30, I’ll be asleep, which is great, because that means I can maximize the time I get to sleep. So I suppose that’s how I do it. And then to be recognized, it was like, honestly, it’s such an honor, I couldn’t believe it when we got the email round. So we found out actually like a couple of months before. I was actually in like Mexico when I found out which is great to see. And then yeah, like the support that I got from everybody the support from the firm partners from all around the world and partners that have now kind of moved into, like I said, we have people who are at the top of their game. So some quite a few of our lawyers have now gone into the Biden administration in DC. So you know, lawyers who have heard the Biden administration like messaging me, like it was it was great. And it is like a really fun like my mom’s WhatsApp picture is still me. We all say it’s quite nice to like do myself and my family proud.

30:13 Rob Hanna:

Yeah, really, really well done. So Chidi, if people which I’m sure they will want to follow or get in touch about anything we discussed today, what’s the best way for them to do that? Feel free to shout out any website links or relevant social media. And we’ll also make sure we share them with this episode.

30:24 Chidi Onyeche:

I mean, you can follow me on LinkedIn, I just don’t know when I’ll get to it. It’s not really the place I go to very often, even though you should, you really should. But I used to get a lot better at that. So if feel free to add me on LinkedIn, it’s Chidi Onyeche. and then the way that you get instant and fast response is to send me a message on the ultimate guide group on Instagram. Or to like send me some sort of DM I definitely will respond there.

30:57 Rob Hanna:

Brilliant. Well, thank you so so much Chidi. It’s been a real pleasure and tons of fun having you on the show, wishing you lots of continued success with your legal career and from all of us on the show. Over and out.

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