By Deba Uwadiae
Ohio-based multiple award-winning Attorney Emmanuel Olawale sits at the table of his new 2,250 square feet office space on County Line Road, Westerville. Arranged behind him are copies of his book, “Flavor of Favor: Quest for the American Dream,” two trophies won from different body builder’s competitions and at the corner, a wine wood table rack with a filled vintage glass decanter between two cups. It’s 10 years!
In the midst of the world economic recession in 2009, U.S fresh attorney Emmanuel Olawale took a bold leap of starting his own law practice in the City of Columbus basing his hope on favor, and in his quest for the American dream and a determined steel of vigor to succeed. He shared his decade of owning and running his law practice with Deba Uwadiae of New Americans magazine: –
Ten years ago when I was about to start my practice, it was a period when everyone was suffering and going through the recession, most businesses were closing, most big law firms were shutting down, lawyers were getting fired and the new ones that were coming out of law school were not able to find a job. It was in this turbulent period that I decided to start my own practice. It wasn’t as if things were easy or palatable at the time because at that time too, I was the only one working. My wife was in school working towards her Master’s degree. It was a very strange bold step. It was either you sink or you swim.
It didn’t seem like a reasonable or logical thing to do at that time for anyone. At that time if you have a job you have that job security, and you stick to it. People were getting fired. You are either looking for one or not trying to start one. That was why it seemed like a crazy idea.
This is one of the best decisions I ever made. Even though at the beginning it seemed like a foolish decision at that time to go out on my own into uncharted terrain not knowing what was going to happen.
I have assisted over 4,000 clients through the immigration system; I have served over 6,000 satisfied clients. When it comes to personal injury part, I have won or settled over $10 million in settlements and verdicts and in law suits I have filed or defended over 350.
In the next 10 years, my hope is that we will be able to get more of that; get more people to help with the same philosophy and that is caring for people.
Recently I represented victims of sex abuse and I was able to get a very good settlement for them. That was in the Olentangy School District, Delaware County of a teacher that was molesting female students. Over the years there have been notable victories in the criminal case area. I have been able to overturn criminal convictions over the last 10years which include that of clients with 15years, 17 years and 6years. I have also helped thousands of clients to obtain their green cards. In the last 10years we’ve been able to help a lot of people to get justice and make life easier.
As I continued to build the practice,, help more people and win cases, words spread around. The practice grew and I developed a large following. The trust is there that when people are sending their friends or colleagues or family members or relatives they know that this lawyer knows what he is doing and he is going to take very good care.
If I have to tell someone in my shoes who want to do this, I will have to tell him that “you have to know yourself.” I don’t think it is for everybody. You must have the drive, put in the work, and throw shyness to the winds.
“It’s not just business. I take it personally!’
When I started, everywhere I go was like a campaign ground for me. If I go to a party I share my business cards; if I go to stores I am letting everyone knows this is what I do. If I go to any restaurant I will spread my cards. It was like I was campaigning. That was how I was able to put my name out there because at that time I couldn’t afford any form of advertising.
I don’t think I was on Facebook at that time. It was more of leg-walk advertising. I will go to churches and seek permission from the pastors to talk to their congregants to let them know what I do.
When I started my practice my intention was to start a practice that will meet the highest form of professional standard. Even though I am a Nigerian American or an American African, I didn’t want to be boxed into a corner of ethnicity. I wanted a practice that will meet any standard and that it didn’t matter what your ethnicity is – whether you’re black, white, Asian or Latino, I just wanted to meet the highest standard of professionalism.
You have this stereotype when it comes to being of African descent, in what I will describe as self-effacing. We don’t trust fellow Africans to be as professional as it should be. From the beginning of my practice, it was intentional that I did not fall into that trap.
I built on what I learned from the law practice that I worked for out of law school and was able to inculcate it into my law practice. It was from that continuity of making sure that everything I do was excellent. Anything worth doing at all is worth doing excellently. I never sacrificed quality for expediency. To me, if it doesn’t look right or feel right, I won’t do it. Starting from my choice of office space, first I started in my house in a very nice neighborhood. Other people I couldn’t see at home I see them in very nice places like public library and book stores. When I decided to move out to get a virtual office, there were cheaper virtual offices, but I went to one that was standard and excellently looking office space so that when clients came they will know that I was in an excellent environment and expect excellent services. I have built on that over the years and never sacrificed that.
My passion for justice comes from the time I was growing up. There were situations growing up where I was accused of doing the things that I didn’t do. That instilled in me the passion for justice; the passion to hate injustice. That is why the mantra of my practice is “It’s not just business. I take it personally!”
When people come to me if I feel that they have a good case I am into it all the way. If I know they don’t have a good case, I tell them. This is because I have the self drive to abhor injustice. Since 2013 I have won several awards.
I still see myself as a journalist but it’s just that I am a non-practicing journalist. My transition to law was kind of progressive. My first degree is in Journalism. Growing up I loved to read and write and I also love the law. Getting to the United States, I realized that law is a second degree, it is post graduate degree. Starting school, I went to my first love, which is writing and journalism. I got my first degree in that. I went to law school and became a lawyer.
My first book is a memoir. In the process of dealing with people and where people call me for counseling, I found out that there are some experiences that I have had that can come in handy and people were encouraging me of the need to write a book.
Currently, I just finished writing my second book which is similar but going to be for practicing attorneys or for those that are planning to start a law firm.
We only have to keep building on what we have right now. We should expect better professionalism, better work and more compassion in helping people. I see this practice as not just as a way to make money but I see it as a calling, a ministry, a way to be the voice of the voiceless, to help the down trodden, a way to give hope to the hopeless and a way to build lives.
I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of my wife. We have something we call business meetings. We sit down regularly and discuss what we should do next and how we can do better. She has been my number one fan.
I am grateful to God for how I have been able to live my life up to this point. How I have been able to build the law practice from scratch and being an immigrant. I came here not knowing what life had in store for me. I am grateful for the opportunities that America offered me to be able to go to college, go to law school, start a practice and thrive. I am grateful to be able to express myself the way I am. From the background I came from and even with all the talents that I have, if it were to be in Nigeria some of the things that I am able to do, apart from being a lawyer, will be judged differently. I hope to be able to build on that; a legacy, that people behind me, who are of African descent or immigrants or who are minority will not limit themselves. It doesn’t really matter where you are born or where you come from or what your background is, with hard work, determination, the right opportunity and the grace of God you can be who or what you want to be. That is the American Dream and that is the opportunity of being in this country.